Ms. Emma Theophilus is a young female politician and inspiration to women and girls. She is an alumnus of the University of South Africa and at 23 years old, the youngest Minster in the Namibian Cabinet and the youngest female Minister in Africa. She holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Namibia and a Diploma in Afrikan Feminist and Gender Studies from the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI).
Emma was born and bred in Windhoek. She attended her primary education at the People’s Primary School and matriculated at Khomas High School in the capital city. “I was exposed too early in leadership roles,” she said, reflecting on the many opportunities granted to her at a young age. She was sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon when she received a surprising rare phone call from the Namibian State House. The call led to a chain of events that has changed her life as it was indeed to confirm her appointment as one of the eight presidential nominees for the National Assembly as well as to serve her nation in the capacity of the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
Emma Theophilus is well-known in Namibian civil society as a highly capable and committed young leader. She said “I am excited. I am told I will be used as a benchmark for young people. I take on the challenge like I have taken other leadership roles. It is uncharted territory and political space, but I am ready to take on the challenge.” Her appointment shows the head of state’s commitment to co-leadership and creating a space for empowerment and development of competent young people. When asked about her experience and ability to execute such a huge portfolio she said, “Everyone has a role. If you are able to learn, understand, gather and acquaint yourself with anything that is available, you can do anything,” Emma said the ICT ministry plays an important role in disseminating information on government programmes and that needs to be improved for Namibians to have an idea of what government is doing.
Prior to her appointment, Emma was employed as a legal officer in the Ministry of Justice where she dealt with drafting human rights reports as well as implementing the human rights strategy of the nation, among others.
In addition to her academic qualification, Emma has a diploma in African Feminism and Gender Studies as well as a diploma in Business Management from the University of South Africa (UNISA) and Amity University, respectively. She previously served as Secretary General of the UNAM Student Representative Council. She also served as the Namibian National Students Organization (NANSO) Secretary between 2015 and 2017. She is a former Junior Mayor of Windhoek (2013-2014) and during the same period started serving as a Member of the Children’s Parliament until 2015, starting as the Deputy Speaker and later becoming the Speaker.
Her parents are police officers and are immensely proud of her achievement. She said “My parents are very ecstatic. My mom is very excited. She wants me to remain humble and remain as I am and not get a big head. She can’t wait to see what the future holds for me,” Emma, who considers her mother as her mentor also said, “There is nothing anybody has taught me that my mother has not”. She maintains that her biggest leadership role was during her time at NANSO. The young MP is also a member of AfriYan — a youth network comprised of young people from Eastern and Southern Africa. The network promotes sexual education, reproductive health, rights and issues facing the girl child.
How has Emma’s story inspired you to aspire for leadership roles? And should you be a young minister like Emma, what would you change?