Penduka is no newbie in the world of emancipation and empowerment in Namibia.
Founded in 1992 by Dutch anthropologist Christien Roos and first board member Martha Muulyau, the two women had a lot in common. Their friendship first began at Ehafo, a former organization that assisted people with disabilities, to acquire skills to assimilate as best as possible in Namibian society.
Martha, though contracting polio as a child, finished secondary school. Christien, amongst other, studied occupational therapy. Upon getting to know each other, they both made a pact to work together to improve and empower the lives of all women in Namibia.
Later on, just before Namibia celebrated their long-awaited Independence from South Africa, the women managed their foundation from a variety of locations, before seizing the opportunity to buy the buildings of the Kalahari Yacht Club, at the Goreangab Dam.
Where people had previously been sipping on pink G&T’s and showing off their boats, the premises were now the workplace for many previously disadvantaged members of society who had their hopes set on a bigger and better future.
Martha and Christien cemented their presence soon with the production of hand embroidered home ware products, such as tablecloths, napkins, tea cosies, towels and bedding. The concept of having many women working from their houses and producing village-themed, embroidered pieces, brought diversity to the products and became the definite trademark of the brand.
In a small shop on the premises, they showcased all their products and soon they extended their offerings by branching into the hospitality sector. Soon, tour operators catering for the adventure traveller, came to stay over in the traditional rondavels and tasted a variety of cultural delicacies. Today, visitors can choose between various facilities including camping, backpacking, staying in bungalows or even a villa featuring a majestic view.
The name ‘Penduka’ was appropriately chosen, as it originates from the Otjiherero and Oshiwambo languages and translates into ‘Wake up!’. A project dedicated to empowerment, run and managed by a majority of women, arose like a phoenix from the center of the township of Katutura.
The concept was running well and with third-party assistance, the product range was extended by the inception of the glass recycling project. This project was dedicated to, and is still run, by hearing- impaired women, who have mastered the art of making glass beads and creating jewelry from them. They love their workshop and their view over the dam. They also collect glossy magazines which they then cut into pieces and varnish, subsequently rolling them into beads.
In another corner of the Penduka premises, a pottery business has been cofounded by Chameleon Germany, where a variety of lifestyle products are produced. Each item is hand painted in African style and compliments the signature range of products sold in the shop.
The foundation also works very hard to be non-reliant on the national grid, by using solar panels. They also put a lot of effort into keeping the organic vegetable garden and their aquaponics system running.
Martha has since moved back to the North of Namibia, where she follows her passion in educating young people. Christien has also returned to her home in the north of The Netherlands, from where she continues to support and stay connected to Penduka’s current management team consisting of General Manager Kauna and Production Manager Victoria. These two young professionals are well on their way to keep the founding legacy alive.
Be sure to take time to visit this wonderful and long-standing project on your next visit to Windhoek. You will recognise their products from The Narrative as well as their own website and will certainly concur with us that they are worth project bringing hope to many and certainly worth supporting.
Written by: Sonia Noirfalise