Africa’s gentle giant President Hage Geingob of Namibia passes on

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I was just 13 years old when I had this idea that seemed silly to many people. What was this idea anyway? Well, it was to teach unemployed young women and older girls across Africa and the Caribbean who had dropped out of school, a skill that was relevant in our world today, and what was that skill? It is a basic filmmaking class. Perhaps you are now thinking the same thing that those adults thought some 8 years ago, how could a 13-year-old girl, with no formal filmmaking education, just burst out and start teaching others filmmaking? “What an audacity”, some thought.

Lesson number one, never share your dreams with those who can’t see them. Just ask Joseph – right !!!

When I was 9, I entered a school story competition for 11 – 17-year-olds, sponsored by the History Channel here in California, to document a historic event anywhere that was revolutionary. I chose the Ghana revolution of 1979, because it was the best-documented revolution I could find, and the person who led it – President Jerry Rawlings, was still alive. How good was that? So, I went to Ghana to meet him for my short film, which I had to shoot, edit, and score myself.

That’s how my filmmaking journey began.

In Namibia, I had 25 students in that creative session in February 2016, and we went through a basic filmmaking class I had created a curriculum. Namibia TV was there and so was The Namibian newspaper, because they all wanted to see what this 13-year-old girl was doing. I too wanted to see it, you know.

The next day, I didn’t know my project made the newspapers until our phone in the hotel rang. My dad (he always travels with me) answered it, and it was some deputy commissioner of police. It turned out that President Hage Geingob had read the papers that morning, learned about my film class for unemployed girls in his country, and wanted to meet me. So, they traced us to our hotel.

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Lesson number two: Always do good in other people’s countries.

President Geingob welcomed me to the State House the next day, very, very warmly, shook my hand, and thanked me for thinking about the girls of his country to pilot my filmmaking class. We talked about the opportunities and challenges girls face, and how he thought I could be a great example for girls in the region since they look up to me. I was back in the country three more times over 7 years after that, working also with their very kind and lovely First Lady H.E. Monica Geingo twice, on new gender initiatives.

Sadly, my very friend, President Hage Geingob, passed away in Windhoek – on February 4th. He was 82 years old. I am truly saddened, but it brings to the reality again that we all are on a journey, passing through. So please, let us empty ourselves of every good we can do, and take nothing but emptiness with us, because our time is always shorter than we think. Just imagine, that once upon a time, my good friend, President Geingob was just a 4-year-old boy.

I would miss you, my good friend and the example of the power of unification and regional leadership you were. You were a mentor to many younger African Presidents and Prime Ministers too.

Good night, President Geingob. Namibians and the African Union as a whole would absolutely miss your towering presence, your wisecracks, your wisdom, and your deep voice of reassurance.

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