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Mavis Elias: Philanthropy meets feminism

Mavis Elias: Philanthropy meets feminism

Fighting poverty by creating access to housing while promoting women in engineering

Image above: Harvest time in Namibia

Queen's Young Leader, Mavis Elias explains how she combines her ambitions and interests to help her country, Namibia.

I live in Namibia, which gained its independence in 1990. With 28 years of independence, the country has made great strides in its economic development and even greater strides in fighting poverty.

However, the journey is still long and a significant amount of work still needs to be done to fully capitalise on the potential of the Namibian person and eradicate poverty.

The Namibian soil gave birth to my passion for engineering. The number of females in the engineering industry has grown over the years and continues to grow. My passion for engineering was born out of two elements:

  • fighting poverty by creating access to housing
  • breaking the barriers placed on women in society.

Fighting poverty by creating access to housing

I am extremely passionate about equality in all spheres and especially in access to opportunities.

This goes hand in hand with poverty eradication. In creating access to information, housing, sanitary water, education and decent living conditions, we create a cycle that predominately breaks the cycle of poverty.

There stands an opportunity in the housing crisis to introduce low-cost housing as the answer to the ever-growing housing crisis in Namibia.

Poverty eradication is a vast subject and has many facets, and identifying the facet one would like to tackle creates a greater impact.

In ensuring that my focus is centered on one facet, I create an opportunity to make an impact. 

Breaking the barriers placed on women in society

The engineering industry is a vastly male dominated field in the world and it is no different in Namibia. 

Although women are encouraged to join the engineering industry, it is particularly difficult to break the glass ceiling and sit in decision making positions and particularly management positions.

It is with the knowledge that there is still a vast under-representation of women in top engineering positions that I chose to pursue engineering. I welcome a challenge. And because I am aware of the under representation, I take it upon myself to create the representation and become a key player in ensuring that women have the choice to sit in top management seats in the engineering industry – to break the glass ceiling and create opportunities for the future generation.

Embodying who I am

The two reasons above embody who I am as a whole. I am a feminist who has a great love for philanthropy.

The engineering industry gives me the rare opportunity to pursue both passions simultaneously. It gives me an opportunity to ensure that my career is not individually focused, but has the potential to create a ripple effect in my country.

My undergraduate thesis was centered around finding alternative building methods to curb the housing crisis and create a housing model that is affordable to low-income citizens – to ensure that every Namibian citizen will have access to decent housing. In my masters thesis, I want to take the idea and develop it into a project that can be implemented.

It is my hope that my efforts and ambitions can play a contributing role towards poverty eradication and the creation of a sustainable environment in my Namibia.