A 23-year-old Namibian woman, Emma Theofilus has been appointed the country’s youngest minister. The appointment of Theofilus by President Hage Geingob as deputy information and technology minister also made her the Southern African country’s youngest member of parliament.
A law graduate, Theofilus was part of president Geingob’s list of eight non-voting members announced on Sunday and sworn Tuesday, The Namibian reports.
According to multiple reports, Theofilus was informed of her appointment through a “surprisingly rare” phone call from the State House that would change her life forever as one of the eight presidential nominees for the country’s national assembly and a deputy minister.
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The 23-year-old’s appointment as expected drew a barrage of criticism from the country’s old elites, questioning her capacity and competence—criticisms she has taken coolly and vowed to claim the honor done her.
“I do not think I am special, but I do not think I am inexperienced, and I do not think being young or female has anything to do with my appointment. Anything I set myself to and any environment I want to work into, I can do it; so the issue of inexperience does not hold any water,” said Theofilus as reported by The Namibian
“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,” she added in a separate interview.
Theofilus is widely known in the Namibian civil society fraternity as “highly capable” and committed young activist and leader. And political commentator, Graham Hopwood believes she was “ideally placed for a senior role at the ministry of youth,” soon.
Theofilus’ appointment comes at a time when the youth in Namibia had been calling for the introduction of more youthful faces into the country’s leadership structure which is largely made of retiring old folks.
“It is not just inclusivity but the president is showing and demonstrating practical example and has trust in us as young people,” former youth activist Ester Simon said.
Before her life-changing appointment, Theofilus 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.
Aware of the expectations that lie ahead, she said she will not go into the ministry thinking “I know it all.”
“So of course the minister, being the head and political appointee, and the deputy minister allow the whole ministerial position to function. It is a supporting role, just like any law has supporting regulations to allow it to function.
“I do not think being a deputy minister is a role that cannot be brought to life, the person should know what they have planned for that position and anybody can do it. It is not an insignificant role,” she added.