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Meet the Namibian Fellows: Dr Rachel J Freeman

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The six Namibian Fellows are now ten weeks into their visit to DECIPHer. In blog four, Dr Rachel J Freeman explains how their experience reflects this year’s Commonwealth Fellowship theme: ‘Girls Education: No-one left behind’.

Tell us about your work in Namibia

I am a Senior Research Fellow and an Erasmus+ Leadership Fellow at Cardiff University in Wales. I am an Educator (Senior Lecturer) in Social Work at the University of Namibia in the Psychology and Social Work Department. I am also the Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative of the University of Namibia (UNAM CARES), responsible for transforming the University of Namibia into an engaged university that is relevant and responsive to the needs of the community. I am responsible for teaching student social workers how to plan, design and implement impactful interventions in the community through Work Integrated Service Learning opportunities, where theory is integrated into practice.  I am conducting research and publishing on COVID-19, palliative care, Hepatitis E, alcohol and substance abuse and aspects of behavioral change combating gender-based violence; HIV and AIDS in promoting social justice and human rights.

I am inspired by the motto of Dr Nelson Mandela: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world’. 

Why did you want to get involved with the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship scheme? 

To serve as a change agent for girls’ education and empowerment. To advocate for girls’ human rights. To be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills on how to plan, design, implement and evaluate impactful girls’ education, health and well-being interventions. To maximize my Commonwealth Professional Fellowship status as a vehicle to deliver life-changing programmes aimed at improving girls’ education, health and well-being.

What are your goals while you are here? 

To gain knowledge and skills on innovative methodologies necessary to plan, design, implement and evaluate mechanisms and context sensitive and appropriate interventions for girls’ education and empowerment. To improve and promote girl-friendly, culturally-sensitive education, health and well-being programmes resulting in increased access, retention and completion rates of girls’ education, but also creating enabling environments in which girls assert and claim their human rights and become confident, well equipped, empowered and assertive leaders. I’d like to integrate knowledge and skills acquired during Commonwealth Professional Fellowship visits,  face-to-face sessions, conferences, webinars, assigned scientific readings, reading group plenary discussions, and expert presentations to:

•        Establish a Platform for Youth Empowerment (PYE).

•        Establish a School Health Research Network at UNAM.

•        Conduct transdisciplinary transactional research on girls’ access, inclusion and opportunities to education, health and well-being.

•        Develop pedagogical interventions to promote girls’ education, health and well-being.

•        Develop an evaluation framework on project planning, design, implementation, mechanisms and context.

•       Establish transdisciplinary strategic partnerships

One of my goals is to acquire more knowledge and skills to empower girls to become more assertive and confident leaders.”

Rachel

How have you found it here so far?

The Welsh people are very friendly, hospitable and helpful. I have found my Commonwealth Fellowship a very enriching and rewarding journey. I am immensely grateful for the learning platform granted by CSC Professional Fellowship Commission via the Phoenix Project of Cardiff University. I have acquired new knowledge, insights, skills and understanding through the various seminars, webinars, reading groups, expert presentations, visits, etc. on how to promote girls’ access, retention and completion of education. I will utilize the knowledge and skills acquired from my fellowship at the Phoenix Project of Cardiff University to promote girls’ education and empowerment through the establishment of a Platform for Youth Empowerment (PYE) under the umbrella of UNAM Cares, which will focus on girls’ education and empowerment aimed at creating a barrier-free learning environment which will empower girls with the knowledge, life skills and ability to transform their attitudes needed to benefit maximally from education.

The staff at Cardiff University is very friendly, helpful, passionate, knowledgeable and committed to their fields of expertise. I admire the peer reviewed publication record of Cardiff University staff and would like to increase my publication outputs in close collaboration with Cardiff University staff in the different fields of expertise and innovative methodologies.

L-R: Ayesha Wentworth, Rakel Kavena ShalyefuRosa PersendtRachel FreemanHonor Young, Cynthy Haihambo,
Ndinelago Shilongo

Have there been any experiences so far that stand out to you?

Personally, I am highly impressed and inspired by the peer reviewed publication and co-production work of Cardiff University from research development to knowledge translation. Cardiff University’s  action and participatory research profile and publications are  highly commendable. Professionally, I am encouraged and motivated by the documentation of innovative methodologies under the various projects through peer reviewed publications. I am aspiring to foster a productive network relationship and various partnerships with the Innovation Hub of Cardiff University through formal service level agreements between the various innovation projects of Cardiff University and the University of Namibia. The networking relationship between Cardiff University Innovation Campus (SBARC|SPARK) and the Welsh Government is very impressive and regarded as a Best Practice Approach from which we as Namibian Commonwealth Professional Fellows can learn a lot in regards to fostering collaborations between the Namibian Government and the Higher Education Institution.

What are you most looking forward to learning about while you are here in Cardiff?

·       To increase my knowledge and skills on how to plan, design, implement and evaluate innovative girls’ education and empowerment interventions aimed at increasing girls’ enrolment, retention and completion of education from primary to tertiary education.

·       To acquire more knowledge and skills through learning from best practices approaches to empower girls to become more assertive and confident leaders.

·       To establish networking relationships and develop partnerships in areas of girls’ education, health and well-being as well as to strengthen the University of Namibia’s Corporate Social Responsibility programmes through innovative methodologies and interventions, learning from best practice approaches by Cardiff University.

Rachel’s Twitter account can be found here: @RfreemanRachel. Find out more about the Phoenix Project here: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/phoenix-project.