Economic Empowerment Program Volunteer
Peace Corps has been operating in Namibia since shortly after the country’s independence in 1990, and since 2010 has worked with Namibians on an economic development program; the Economic Empowerment Project.
Economic development is a priority for the Government of Namibia. While Namibia is classified as an upper-middle income country based on its GDP per capita, the unequal distribution of wealth masks the high poverty rate. According to the World Bank, in 2018, 32% of Namibians lived on less than $3.20 per day. The unemployment rate is at 33.4%, with the youth unemployment rate 46.1% (2018 Namibia Labor Force Survey).
Youth in Namibia face many challenges including poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and a small formal economy. As the future of the nation, they, and their economic situation, are of particular concern.
As an Economic Empowerment Program Volunteer, your job will be to help Namibians work towards economic security and inclusive development. You will work with local counterparts to develop the capacity of Namibia’s aspiring entrepreneurs, promote the implementation of income-generating activities and assist with small business development.
You may perform tasks such as:
- Planning, coordinating, facilitating, and presenting workshops on different topics including entrepreneurship, basic business skills, financial literacy, numeracy skills, digital literacy, basic office administration and employability skills.
- Providing one-on-one coaching to entrepreneurs.
- Planning, organizing and putting on events for prospective and existing entrepreneurs and small business owners such as: Pitch Competitions, Business Plan Competitions, Market Days, Expos, and Business Networking events.
- Organizing market days and street fairs.
- Working with youth in Vocational Training Institutions, women’s groups, and operators in the informal sector (i.e., small business owners, and street vendors) to help them learn new skills and practices.
- Helping connect suppliers, producers, and vendors to each other and to resources.
- Working with municipal and regional government offices to provide and facilitate opportunities for entrepreneurs and increase accessibility to services.
Peace Corps Namibia has two Cross-Sector Programming Priorities (CSPPs): HIV/AIDS and Women’s Economic Empowerment through Digital Literacy. All Volunteers in Namibia are both trained and expected to facilitate activities in their communities that contribute to the two CSPPs. You may also have the opportunity to conduct secondary projects such as teaching life skills, numeracy skills, or building fuel-efficient stoves.
Peace Corps Namibia promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in Namibia and have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate.
During Pre-Service Training, you will start learning and developing the skills and knowledge you need to accomplish these tasks. Throughout the twelve-week intensive training period, you will live with a local family and be trained on key technical, cross-cultural, language, medical, and safety and security aspects within the context of Namibia’s diverse settings.
All training aims to foster four key professional job functions:
- Demonstrate responsibility for personal health, safety, and security.
- Exemplify commitment to service and resilience.
- Facilitate participatory development.
- Integrate into communities.
Serving as an Economic Empowerment Program Volunteer will provide first-hand experience in a variety of fields including project management, business development, business guiding, training delivery, leadership, planning and organization, intercultural communication, grant writing, monitoring and evaluation and community organizing. The skills you bring to Namibia and the ones you learn there can make a tangible difference in people’s lives, both yours and those of the people with whom you work.
COVID-19 Volunteer Activities
As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.
Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business discipline
• 5 years professional experience in business management
The most qualified applicants will have practical experience in one or more of the following areas:
• Five years of experience in entrepreneurship and small business development. Previous experience owning or managing a business is highly desired.
• A bachelor’s degree and at least three years’ relevant professional work experience in at least two of the following areas:
- Business processes and systems
- Business administration and management
- Strategic plan formulation/implementation/monitoring
- Digital literacy
- Accounting and Finance
- Marketing and market development
- Start-ups and small business development
- Event planning and management skills or experience.
- Presentation, facilitation and guiding skills.
Required Language Skills
There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.
Peace Corps Namibia has dedicated Language and Cross-Cultural Facilitators to teach local languages during Pre-Service Training. You are expected to learn the local language spoken in your community, henceforth referred to as the primary local language, and achieve an intermediate level of proficiency by the conclusion of Pre-Service Training. Proficiency in a local language is critical to your ability to carry out your duties as a Volunteer.
In most communities, at least three other local languages are spoken in addition to the primary local language. Learning basic greetings in the additional local language(s) spoken in your community is essential for successful integration. Having an interest in a deeper study of local language, which most often will occur in your community, in the form of self-study and continued work with a tutor, is a way for you to work more directly with community members.
Peace Corps Namibia identifies and trains a language tutor at each Volunteer’s community. In addition, Peace Corps Namibia employs a Language Coordinator who monitors Volunteers’ progress in local languages throughout service. Peace Corps Namibia expects that Volunteers will take advantage of all language acquisition opportunities in order to achieve a local language level one step above the level attained at the end of PST, by the end of the first year of service.
Your living situation will depend on where you are assigned to work. While Volunteers are commonly placed in urban or peri-urban centers, some Economic Empowerment Program Volunteers serve in very remote areas. Accordingly, you may live in your own apartment with modern amenities, such as a basic refrigerator, stove, shower, inside kitchen, etc., in a single room on the Vocational Training Center grounds, or in a modest house with a shared kitchen and common areas. Most houses have indoor plumbing and electricity. Volunteers who serve in remote communities live in traditional housing with no indoor plumbing or electricity. Flexibility and adaptability are desired characteristics for any potential Volunteer, as is the ability to navigate personal health risks associated with shared housing and common areas.
Namibians eat large quantities of meat, often accompanied by a carbohydrate. Vegetarians may have a difficult time explaining and maintaining their diet.
You may do a great deal of walking, often several kilometers a day. Biking is also an option, under certain conditions. For longer trips, minibuses and shared taxis will be available from locations near your community.
Namibia has some restrictive laws that target certain sexual acts. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and country-specific laws and use their best judgment to determine how to approach topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during Pre-Service Training and identify support mechanisms for incoming Trainees. For more information, please see the State Department’s Travel Information on Namibia: (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Namibia.html).
Volunteers should research Namibia’s history before arriving to be better prepared to live and work in a ‘post-conflict’ area and to face the issues that come with a post-apartheid and colonial past. Namibia is an exceedingly diverse country with a complex history that continues to affect the country politically, economically, and socially. Living and working in Namibia means negotiating extreme economic disparity on a regular basis as well as navigating one’s own individual identities – especially around race and ethnicity – and how they may be perceived differently in Namibia. Peace Corps Namibia will work with Trainees and Volunteers to help them understand and successfully navigate this situation.
Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service may experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from Namibians. Please be aware that American concepts of politeness and appropriate behavior are not universal. Ethnically, nationally, or racially diverse Americans may be asked where they are “actually from” or if they are “really” American. Many Volunteers have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences, sharing American values and deepening local community members’ understanding of Americans.
As a Volunteer in Namibia, you will live among people who may have cultural norms different from the ones you are familiar with. Your effectiveness as a Volunteer is partly dependent on your ability to navigate these norms, so flexibility and a willingness to learn and understand, are key. Examples of norms you may encounter include a high importance placed on personal relationships, a casual attitude towards time and deadlines, sexism, strong hierarchies, bureaucracy, perceptions of American affluence, etc. Your training will help prepare you for these challenges.
Serving in Namibia
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Namibia: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, health, and safety -- including health and crime statistics -- in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.
Peace Corps Namibia welcomes couples. Your partner must apply and qualify for one of the following positions:
- Community Health and HIV/AIDS Programs (CHHAP) Volunteer
- The Economic Empowerment Program Volunteer
Due to community and placement challenges, Post can only accommodate one Community Health and HIV/AIDs & Economic Empowerment Program couple and one Economic Empowerment Program couple at the moment. During Pre-Service Training and other training events, couples may be asked to share rooms with other Trainees and Volunteers, depending on availability of rooms. Though conditions of housing and communities will vary, couples will live together during service.
Peace Corps Namibia is currently not accepting same-sex couples due to the uncertain political climate. The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process recruiters and placement officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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