Interview: Elizabeth Kauna Simon



From early on, Kauna Simon was brought up with Penduka. After the death of her father, she was largely raised by her aunt Martha. Martha has a disability and in that way she came in contact with Christien (Roos, founder of Penduka, read more about her in our project report) in the 80s. Martha was a big example for Christien, of how empowerment of women in Namibia can change their lives. Kauna began working with Penduka when she was 26 and grew from a waitress and chambermaid in 8 years to the position of general manager. We talk with Kauna about her motivation , about the power of Penduka and about her dream to open her own restaurant one day.



An interview with Elizabeth Kauna Simon:

I. General Information

a. Can you shortly describe your history with the Penduka-project?

"When I was ten years old and still in school, I often went to visit my grandmother in the north. There I got to know Christien (founder of Penduka, read more about it in our project report). She knew my aunt and always made fun with us when we were little! After my school I went to Windhoek, where Christien and my aunt Martha always had a good influence on me. Aunt Martha has a disability and is, through Christien, involved with Penduka from the very beginning.

On my 26th I officially started working for Penduka. That was in 2007. Before I sometimes had earned some money as a hairdresser, but this was my first real job. At first I worked as a waitress and chambermaid. That was when Penduka was really still in a build-up fase. I already got a permanent contract fairly quickly and I was deployed more allround. I became more and more a permanent employee and was promoted as supervisor of the restaurant and accommodations. Later I even became senior supervisor! In 2009 I was promoted again, to head-hospitality. I never followed a higher education, but at the time Penduka allowed me to do several workshops and courses where I learned a lot! It made me feel that I could get further than ever. In 2012, I was even promoted 'general manager'. But this did not change me much, this title. I still just do my job. "


b. What has been the impact of the project since then, on the target group and local community and surroundings?

“Penduka has given a large portion of the female community in the area some opportunities. A chance of schooling, the chance of a job, a chance of an income. All these opportunities provide them a growing self-esteem. With Penduka, the focus is also on the weaker in the community. People with disabilities, but also the elderly. That makes the job very special. I think, finally, that the fact that the project more or less is returned to the community, is of great value. There is no boss, no one to whom we must admit defeat. It really feels like Penduka is of ourselves. "


c. What has motivated you, personally, to start your development project?

"I think the biggest motivation is always a certain belief in something. For me this was the faith of my aunt. If she could do it, why could I not? She walked on crutches and still moved mountains with Penduka. I can walk on two feet. Why should I not be able to be useful for the community? If you want you can reach higher and higher! My dream is ultimately to have my own café somewhere in the north, where I originally come from. I have had a course in nutrition science, and good nutrition is extremely important! That must be available for anyone in the community. "


d. What is, according to you, the strongest point of the project?

"The strongest point of the project is the positive vibe. That has always been with us, there is little room for uncertainty. The project provides security. It is one of the few projects that has been around here for so long. Christien started here in 1992! Most projects have fallen, stopped. But not Penduka. Therefore, the faith in this project is incredibly large. God has his way with Penduka. "


e. What is, according to you, the biggest challenge / point of improvement for the project?

"Where Penduka still could make progress is that we should at some point be able to buy the land that we work on. Up to this moment we still lease from local government. This makes that large investments, big ideas are not encouraged, because; who tells me that their isn't coming someone tomorrow and take everything away? To overcome that barrier, we really need to get that land in our possession. "



II. Development (aid) - north / south relations

a. What is your idea on development?

"Social development is for me a place like Penduka. It is a place where people come together, where people get inspired. And in such a way that motivates and activates. They are caught by a certain feeling: we can do it! You will make yourself familiar with all kinds of things, you will live with an open mind. This for me creates social development. "


b. There is a lot of Western organizations starting development projects in Africa. What is your general vision on this development-aid?

"With regard to Penduka we for example have the Global Fund which funds our tuberculosis program. This program ensures that there will be more jobs created in the region, that there is more awareness, and so on. It thus provides for advancement. I see nothing but positive to those development projects here. People who are not from here can really add something though. Sometimes they have specific training and knowledge we lake. We can then use this for the better! "


c. What, according to you, are the main pitfalls / challenges for Western organizations that want to develop other / foreign communities

"Sometimes people who want to do a project here in Namibia make things really difficult for themselves. That's because they are here, above all, for themselves. But that does not keep you long. You have to be here mainly for the community, for the weak! That could in my view be your only motivation. This sometimes causes trouble. But that has nothing to do with where you come from, but with your heart. "


d. The In2Afrika Foundation takes the civil society as main principles, in which small scale and local practice are the two most important principles. What is your opinion on our startingpoint?

"I think that projects initiated by locals are often lacking the same things: training, specific expertise, a network. So they have a lot to work on in their social development: go look around how certain things work in other places. And don't be afraid to also ask for help from outside the community, outside of your local area. The important thing is that you look around you, create networks, collect information before embarking on a development project. Perhaps that's even more important than whether you're small or locally based. "



III. Image of Africa

a. What is, according to you, the current prevailing Western image of the African continent?

"People from Europe think about all diseases in Africa first. Then they think about all the crime that's in Africa and then they consider poverty. I think the reality is that you have to look at it more from both sides. I was in the Netherlands once, and I saw prostitutes too, I've also seen people steal bikes. But that's not the first thing I think of when I will go to the Netherlands again. "


b. What's your opinion on these images?

"So I think you should look at it differently. We are the richest continent in the world, but we do not have the courage or the knowledge to use what God has given us. That's what people should see. Africa has great resources, but it needs to discover how they can go put them to the best use! That is a much more positive way of looking at things! "


c. How should this image be changed?

"The best solution is to come to Africa, and sheer daring experience. Not with fear, not with prejudice. Do not believe what other people will try to tell you. Then you lock yourself out of seeing all the beautiful things on this continent. That's a shame. "


d. What does the Penduka-project do to create an image of the project and of the African continent in general?

"Penduka involves people. It lets the people who come here see that one should not be anxious about Namibia or Africa. We show what life here is really about and we try to make people understand one thing: people here are just trying to simply survive, with the little they have. Then make the comparison with where you come from, with what you have. That surely is not even, is it? Now let's find a balance in there. Penduka thus gives off a good vibe. It tries to make people face the facts. You see how people are living here, how can it be that this is different from your country, your home? But also show that people work hard to get out of their current situation, try to get to a better place. That's what Penduka does and should continue doing. "