While Government is pushing for the empowerment of women in all positions of influence within the economy, one Milka Mungunda, Operations Manager at the Government Institutions’ Pension Fund (GIPF), believes that education should be a key driver in women’s emancipation.
Mungunda, who has served the GIPF since 1999 when she started the Operations Department, believes women have to take education seriously if they are to be considered for positions which are usually patriarchal.
“Women do not need to prove themselves to anyone. As young women, we must not take education for granted. It is sad to see young girls drinking and smoking as if it is a fashion, and we should ask ourselves where our generation is going,” she stated.
“Young people are the ones who are going to lead tomorrow, so let us not throw away babies. Let us see the opportunity when it comes. There is a difference between being assertive and aggressive, and I think the most important thing for young girls is to be assertive without being aggressive,” she noted.
Mungunda, who holds a Master of Science degree, a degree in Education and is also a trained psychologist, previously worked for the University of Namibia as Registrar. She also worked as a teacher at the Okakarara Secondary School, and as a part-time lecturer at the University of Natal.
“I went to school in Keetmanshoop, then to Okakarara, where I completed my high school. l then went to South Africa for my university studies. During those years, Black people were not allowed to go to other institutions, except for the ones which were in the former Bantustans. If one wanted to go to other institutions, you had to get permission from Home Affairs in South Africa,” she continued. Although she later found fame and fortune in the twilight of her career, Mungunda did not always have it easy.
“Working as a teacher that time was not easy because I was the only qualified black teacher at the Okakarara Secondary School, and the only underpaid one,” she laughs.
“I joined the GIPF in 1999. We were actually the first group of people who were employed to establish the GIPF as a Fund in Namibia.Before that, the Fund was run by Sanlam”, she explained further.
On her present role, she was vivid. “My task is to ensure that members are paid on time, that member data is updated, that the pension benefits of members are in place, and that we review member benefit payments on a regular basis to see how we can improve these benefits,” she stated.
Mungunda also serves on various boards, like the SME Bank as a non-executive director and as a chairperson of their HR committee, as well as a Commissioner of the Public Office Bearers-Committee (POBC).
Mungunda has furthermore managed to transform the GIPF into a larger institution through her diligent service. “It was not an easy task, because all the documents and everything used to be in South Africa. So, when we came, we had to move all the documents and all the data from South Africa,” she added.
Mungunda said, “When I joined the GIPF, we did not have anything. We did not have decent chairs, so we had to put everything together. We had to acquire our own system. Now, the GIPF is the only pension fund administrator in the country which has all the local skills in one place.” As in any high-demanding position such as hers, it is always accompanied by challenges.
“Being the biggest pension fund in the country, we always have to be careful with how the money is invested, and properly invested because the collapse of the GIPF will actually mean the collapse of the Namibian economy. We always have to be conscious of that fact. It is also a Defined Benefit Fund, which means if it does not perform or if the investment fails, the government as the employer will then take full responsibility.
Because of that, the Fund Manager and the Administration have to make sure that you do not put pressure on the government,” she said.
She explained that the GIPF was established formally in 1989 by an Act of Parliament to provide pension fund services to civil servants and parastatals.
It is only for providing pension fund benefits to civil servants, their offspring and surviving spouses, and then to parastatals.
The GIPF has grown its asset base to above N$80 billion, making it one of the most well-run institutions in the country.