Humble, enthusiastic and free-spirited, is how many would describe her. With her love for nature, zest for life and warm personality it is no surprise that Selma is loved by many. It is the warmth in her eyes when she smiles and the gentle tone of her voice. Born Selma Iipumbuthi Shitilifa, in Lubango, Angola during the Liberation Struggle, she grew up in a village called Okalunga, close to Nakayale Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) Parish in the Omusati Region. She was raised by her aunt who she now refers to as her mother, since losing both her parents a tender age.
With a Master’s degree in Environmental Management from the University of Free State and being a certified Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Management Systems Auditor, she speaks excitedly about why she preferred to endeavour this sector which is largely attributed to her love for nature. Currently the Project Manager for the CBNRM EDA project, financed by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), through the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, implemented by the Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia. This project provides financing to community based organisations, especially the conservancies and the community forests in the country.
“In the past ladies were not given the opportunity to serve on platforms and in positions that allow them to really engage and air their views. So to be accorded that platform, especially now being a Project Manager at the EIF is some of the opportunities that one has achieved to overcome some of these stereotypes on gender.
Other challenges include social pressure, making your voice heard and being
a single mother. Its having to find a balance as well.”
Deciding which career path to take, was not a difficult one, considering that for years environmental or agricultural studies was said to be male dominated. But for Selma these were the very trials she sought out. “Yes it is challenging, but we are evolving now, we are fostering gender mainstreaming, gender equality, allowing for female leadership in the country" she said.
"We need to regard these issues as opportunities and take them on without fear, Selma said.” While speaking on her determination to grow in the sector and in her career, Selma, overcomes some of these sectoral obstacles she faces by persevering and being persistent. “In the past ladies were not given the opportunity to serve on platforms that allows them to really engage and serve in positions that allows for opinions and views to be aired. So to be accorded that platform, especially now being a Project Manager at the Environmental Investment Fund is some of the opportunities that one has achieved to overcome some of these stereotypes," she said.
Shitilifa tries to emulate the lessons and values learned from those that have contributed to her upbringing. Commitment is important. “You have to be committed to whatever it is you are undertaking.” Professionalism, integrity, being result-driven and disciplined are all principles applied regularly. When she isn’t working, she funnels her time into nature drives, enjoying and appreciating its immaculate serenity. She meditates, listens to music and spends time with the love of her life, her son, Lionel.
Constantly reminded by the notion that there are no failures in life just setbacks and lessons, she isn’t too hard on herself. She allows for pressing matters to transpire, filter through the issue/s, which is then followed up by a little self- reflection and introspection. Shitilifa looks at what she could've done better and pulls herself up and remains positive and focuses on the journey ahead.
Should she be accorded an opportunity to pursue another career, it certainly would’ve been in alternative male-dominated industry such as a engineering, law or aviation. “My character and personality would’ve had led me to another male-dominated pasture. Where I would enjoy the learning process, the challenges and the thrill.”
Projecting mammoth passion for her profession and it’s sector, Selma certainly was destined to lead, learn and inspire. This is a rising star worth keeping an eye on.