A Great Woman…in her own right.
Many of you have heard this saying before: “Behind every great man there’s a great woman”. It does indeed have a straight a straightforward literal meaning. It is a saying which is supposed to imply that many great women are often ignored or taken for granted. As matter of fact, it is a saying that was first used in the 1940s before the paradigm changing feminist movement of the 60s and 70s decided to use it as their slogan. It is thought that, strategically they did not want to threaten the men as they moved into their roles as equals. All they sought was recognition for the greatness of women. A position that was adopted to clearly negate what the 18th century British statesman Lord George Lyttelton wrote in 1773 in his poem he “Advice the Lady:
“Seek to be good but aim not to be great;
A woman’s noblest station is retreat.”
Today, this can be likened to heresy, as we all now live in a world where it is impossible to have a discussion on any topic dealing with policy, in which there is no space for what is now known as gender equality. Gender equality, followed by the issue of the empowerment of the youth, have now both become cross-cutting issues.
Many now attribute the saying “Behind every great man there’s a great woman” to an article that appeared in an American Newspaper (Texas) The Port Arthur News, from February 1946, in a report about Meryll Frost a well-known athlete at the time. On receiving his trophy in 1945, Mr. Frost is reported by the newspaper to have said, “behind every great man there’s a woman. While I’m not a great man, there’s a great woman behind me”.
The New African in its December edition of published a list of those it considers as the 100 most influential people in Africa. In this list the name of Monica Geingos sticks out. She is a great woman in her own right and she is my pick for this week’s profile. The New African, the leading African magazine, introduces her thus: “Monica Geingos, the wife of Namibia’s President Geingob, is not only a qualified lawyer, but an accomplished businesswoman who has been managing director of the country’s largest private equity fund. She has also chaired the Presidential Economic Advisory Council”
Concordia,(  one of the world’s leading global convenors, bringing together its expansive membership community of institutions and individuals to address the most complex and challenging issues of our time, provides a clear,  concise and revealing biography of Monica Geingos dated at November 5, 2020.  Read on
Monica has close to 20 years’ experience in the financial sector and was awarded National Honours (Most Distinguished Order of Namibia), by Former President Pohamba, for her “outstanding contribution to the socio-economic development of Namibia.” She was inducted into the Namibian Business Hall of Fame and received numerous awards, such as the Namibian Business Personality of the Year and Most Innovative Entrepreneur, and was regularly rated by local media publications as one of the most influential Namibians.
Monica transitioned into her role as First Lady with the advice of PriceWaterhouseCoopers. They were mandated to assess her business interests, potential conflicts of interest, and prepare her assets for public disclosure. As Namibian legislation does not require the First Lady to disclose her business interests, this process was self-initiated and voluntary. Despite no identified conflict of interest, Monica decided not to entertain any new business interests, disposed of substantial investment assets, resigned from numerous Boards, and utilises a decision tree, based on global best practice, to do continuous assessment of ongoing business interests.
As First Lady, Mrs. Geingos has combined her high-level expertise with President Geingob’s war on poverty and inequality. Through the One Economy Foundation, the First Lady has initiated numerous programs that focus on sustainably lifting vulnerable populations out of poverty traps. In this regard, a flagship project is the One Nation Fund, which provides microentrepreneurs responsible, sustainable access to collateral and interest-free loans, entrepreneurial training, and mentorship. Another flagship program is the Talented Individual Programme. This academic fellowship provides talented children from low-income families access to quality education while concurrently providing them with the full spectrum of clinical and psychosocial support.
Monica’s appointment as a UNAIDS Special Advocate for Young Women and Adolescent Girls is a perfect fit for the One Economy Foundation’s #BeFree Movement. This youth-driven program facilitates a non-judgemental platform for adolescents and young adults to freely discuss their challenges while assisting them with access to information and appropriate services. Monica is currently overseeing the institutionalisation of #BeFree key learnings into Project #BeFree – a one-stop youth centre of excellence. Project Be Free intends to provide a continuum of holistic services including life skills programs, psychosocial support, the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health services (including comprehensive sexuality education), skills and leadership development, adolescent-friendly edutainment, and youth accommodation. Project Be Free has signed up smart partnerships in the public, private, and non-profit space to ensure that the Project can meaningfully close service delivery gaps experienced by young people.
In terms of current obligations, Mrs. Geingos is the Patron of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia. She plays an active role in the attainment of a pro-poor policy environment for shack/slum dwellers. In terms of her international obligations, Mrs. Geingos is the Chairperson of the Board of the Urban Poor Fund International, an international financing facility linked to Slum Dwellers International. She further serves as a Director of the Oxford African Studies Centre International Advisory Board and is a Co-Patron of the PLO Lumumba Foundation Africa Mentorship Programme. She is also a member of the Concordia Leadership Council, which draws its leadership from former government leaders, policy experts, and industry leaders who are charged with the mandate of offering strategic guidance on global issues.
As First Lady, Mrs. Geingos is the recipient of the “Change the World Award” from the Professional Speakers Association of Namibia. She was also awarded the Concordia Leadership Award for her global leadership and “unique and powerful efforts to lead the way for health and socio-economic empowerment.” Various international organisations and publications have previously ranked Mrs. Geingos as one of Africa’s top 100 Economic Leaders, one of the 100 Most Reputable Africans, and one of the 100 Most Influential African Women 2020.
Monica Geingos, yes, the current First Lady of Namibia, nonetheless truly a Great Woman in her own right