Hailing from the Onawa village in the Omusati region, Monika Pendukeni and her partner Prof Scholastika Ndatinda Iipinge are the visionaries for the Welwitschia Health Training Centre, a registered private higher education institution in Namibia, focussing on health, social and management sciences.
A defining moment for them was when they received their startup loan. “I could not sleep that night when I was informed our loan had been approved. That was the moment it was confirmed to me; I am empowered, and it’s really up to me and my team to work hard for our venture’s success,” Pendukeni recalled.
“We can save lives by giving hope to the hopeless youth, and, indirectly, by training health professionals who, in turn, save others,” Pendukeni explained. She studied nursing at Unam and holds a Master’s in Public Health Management from the University of the Western Cape.
Pendukeni and Ndatinda are women leaders in business. Their partnership is the culmination of their shared passion for caring for the health of others and contributing toward the overall improvement of people’s quality of life.
“We started the Centre to bring back confidence in nursing,” Pendukeni recalls. Because of numerous complaints, they had heard about nursing standards in the health sector; they combined their knowledge and expertise to build an institution to instil the values they aspire to in nursing.
“We wanted to produce skilled nurses with an outstanding attitude and passion to serve,” she adds. For these women, it was imperative to cultivate excellence in nursing. “We wanted hospitals in Namibia – both private and public – to actively pursue the high standards of the nurses and health professionals we help develop,” she shared, beaming. They are truly proud of the nurses they have trained and mentored thus far.
These two women regard the challenges they have faced as having made valuable contributions in shaping, changing and humbling them. “The business cycle is a never-ending commitment you make afresh every day, every week, month and year. What we have learnt is to face every challenge head-on and be ready at all times,” she said.
Hidden discriminatory practices remain a challenge as well as subconscious and conscious abuse of women; however, every day, these businesswomen continue to find pride in who they are. “We take joy in our families, relatives and counterparts who cheer us on and are happy to see us succeed,” Monika asserts.
Women remain strongly disenfranchised and excluded in many sectors of society – and Pendukeni and Ndatinda have experienced this first-hand. “Instances of silent unfairness towards women have indeed been barriers in our own careers,” the two shared. Monika is of the opinion that the issue of empowering women needs to be examined extensively to be fully understood and embraced – not only in business but also across all sectors of society. “We, women, can be stronger together; our voices can be heard if we stand together and shout back in action against these norms,” she stated.
Nedbank Namibia’s managing director Martha Murorua firmly agrees that women are stronger together. This shows in Nedbank’s targeted support of female-led businesses like Pendukeni and Ndatinda’s – and a strategic imperative to effect change for women in business. Murorua encouraged saying, “We can all choose to challenge and call out inequality, injustice and gender bias. From challenge comes change, which is the reason why I am leading the call at Nedbank Namibia to #ChooseToChallenge”.
Like the Welwitschia duo, Nedbank can all help create an inclusive world through listening to one another, understanding beyond the surface and cultivating values of trust, honesty and transparency as business leaders. “We strive to include women with potential in our business; after all, we want everyone to grow and learn and inspire other women to unlearn patterns of conscious and subconscious discrimination among women.
Pendukeni recommends that women accept how strong they are. “We are super-beings; multi-taskers – we face many challenges and always strive to succeed, but we should be more intentional about our energy, abilities and time so as not to spread ourselves thin and underperform as a result.”
She is, therefore, a firm believer that we must learn to protect our energy, reach out and ask for help when we need it and not shy away from saying ‘no’.
Pendukeni and her partner have addressed a market need in the health profession, and have answered their true calling by creating a private health-training institute.
“Just look at us today,” Monika concludes. “We are leaving footprints in the sand. We are making our mark”.