23-year-old Namibian woman Emma Theofilus has made history as the youngest minister in the country. She was appointed by President Hage Geingob as deputy information and technology minister.
The law made the list of appointees alongside seven other non-voting members announced on Sunday and sworn in on Tuesday.
According to reports from Namibia, Theofilus got her appointment through a “surprisingly rare” phone call from the State House that changed her life forever as one of the eight presidential nominees for the country’s national assembly and a deputy minister.
As expected, the 23-year-old’s position drew a barrage of criticism from the country’s old elites, questioning her prerequisites, background in politics and competence—criticisms she has taken coolly and vowed to claim the honor done to her.
“I do not think I am special, but I do not think I am inexperienced, and I do not think being young or female has anything to do with my new position. Anything I aim to do and any environment I want to work, I can do it; so the issue of inexperience does not restrict any water,” said Theofilus.
In an exclusive interview, she further said “I am delighted. I am told I will be used as a role model for young people. I take on the challenge like I have assumed other leadership roles. It is uncharted territory and political space but I am ready to take on whatever challenge.”
Theofilus is popular in the Namibian civil society fraternity as “highly capable” and dedicated young activist and leader. And political commentator, Graham Hopwood believes she was “ideally placed for a senior role at the ministry of youth,” soon.
Theofilus’ appointment comes at the time when the youths in Namibia are calling for the introduction of more youths in public offices which is largely made of retiring old folks.
“It is not just inclusivity but the president Geingob is exhibiting and demonstrating practical examples and has faith in us as young people,” former youth activist Ester Simon said.
Before becoming one of the nation’s leaders, Theofilus worked as a legal officer in the Ministry of Justice with the responsibility of drafting human rights reports as well as implementing the human rights strategy of the nation, among others.
Aware of the expectations that awaits her, she said she will not go into the ministry thinking “I know it all.”
“So of course the minister, being the head and political appointee, and the deputy minister allow the whole ministerial position to perform. It is a subordinate role, just like any law has supplementary regulations to allow it to perform.
“I do not think being a deputy minister is a position that can not be brought to life, the person should know what they have planned for that position and anybody can do it. It is not an irrelevant role,” she concluded.