24 January 2013

Namibia: Erkana On Mission to Empower Women

Walvis Bay — Queeny Erkana, a well-known resident of Kuisebmond, Walvis Bay, has become the driving force behind efforts to enhance the livelihoods of women in her neighbourhood by empowering them with skills.

Not only has Queeny Erkana managed to start her own business from scratch, but she has also won the hearts of many residents in the neighbourhood that she operates in. Her business - Women's Hope Way - has enabled many women to earn a decent living and to support their families.

She is an established tailor, a good Samaritan, a caregiver and a businesswoman who knows hard work and who believes that the right work ethic and attitude always pay off. During a recent interview from her business in Kuisebmond, Queeny told New Era she saw the need for basic skills training like needlework and knitting as very critical in her endeavours to help other women.

"I have always seen myself as a community worker and opened a training centre in 2007 in my own backyard," she said. Currently she employs five women and to her credit she has trained over 400 people already. She says her main focus has always been to provide skills training to disadvantaged individuals, especially women.

"It was an uphill battle at first, since we had no sponsors or funding, but I managed to teach many people in my community how to knit and to do proper needle work as well," she said. She explained that some of the trainees were HIV/Aids positive and had no steady income. "In many instances I took some of them in to care for them although my business was not doing that well. Experiencing their suffering first hand made me realise that I needed to work harder not only for myself, but for them as well and today we produce a number of clothing articles for various companies and have several contracts with Manica and another stevedoring company," she said.

She is grateful that she has the support of the two companies and notes the fact that it is not often that well-established companies reach out to SMEs. "In 2011, I landed a big contract with one of the stevedoring companies. They needed shoulder pads for extra protection on their safety gear," she said.

They enlisted her business to design and produce special shoulder pads that could complement the existing safety freezer jackets. The company was so impressed with the quality of her work and she now believes that they would continue to award her more work. Last year, she also received a state-of-the-art industrial laundry machine valued at N$36 000 from Manica. The new acquisition will enable her to expand.

She says that once the machine is installed she would be able to provide laundry services on a large-scale and hopefully more contracts from local companies. "Once this takes off, I would be able to employ more people."

She further encourages other established businesses to make use of the services offered by SMEs for the benefit of the communities they operate in.

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