#LLAInterview: “You can always be a beacon of light and encouragement to the next person,” Ipupa Kasheeta, Founder, IpupaK Grow You.

Image credit: Ipupa Kasheeta

Ipupa Kasheeta is a multi-skilled professional with over 20 years of working experience. She has a track record of leading and driving change within organisations. She started her career as a typist and through sheer determination and studies, she rose through the ranks to the role that made her the first female Port operations manager at the Namibian Ports Authority in her country. 

She is currently one of the few female leaders in the Namibian Maritime Industry. She served as the Manager: General Cargo Terminal for five (5) years at the Namibian Ports Authority and after successfully turning the terminal into a profitable business unit with a workforce of about 150, she was entrusted to take up the role of Manager: Syncrolift to manage the ship and rig repair facility at the Port of Walvis Bay. 

Ipupa holds a Masters in Business Leadership (University of South Africa), Bachelor of Business Administration: Human Resource Management (University of Namibia), Advanced Diploma in Central Banking (Institute of Bankers of South Africa), Higher Education Diploma (University of Namibia) and Certificate in Organisational Development (University of South Africa). She further underwent professional training in Port management in France (IMO), Ireland (UNCTAD) and Israel (Galilee College). 

As women and youth advocate, Ipupa completed a certificate in 2018 “Afrikan Feminist & Gender studies” with the Thabo Mbeki Leadership Institute through the University of South Africa, an initiative of the First Lady of Namibia through her One Economy Foundation. Ipupa is also part of the TED community and has hosted the first-ever TEDx event (2015) in her town (Swakopmund) under the theme “The Power of Contrast”. 

To bestow honour to what she is doing in her country, Ipupa was nominated in 2018 by the Namibian public and selected by a panel of judges as one of the 20 female leaders in Namibia to feature in the book publication titled “Follow Her Lead”. 

In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Ipupa shares the inspiration behind establishing IpipaK GrowYou, how she’s using her platform to mentor and counsel young people and her challenges and achievements. Lean in!

Who is Ipupa Kasheeta? 

I would define Ipupa as a modern African woman who resonates authenticity and vision-driven leadership. She was born and raised in Katutura, a township in Windhoek, at a time when Namibia was under the colonial rule of Apartheid South Africa. During those times, black people suffered as one, they celebrated as one, and children were raised by the entire community. It was also during these times that Ipupa lost her father at the tender age of six, and ever since, the life of her mother who worked as domestic worker served as her life lesson for perseverance, focus and service. 

She’s a woman who has overcome many challenges in both my personal life and career. I believe God has planted within each one of us the potential to achieve greatness. We just need someone to see that greatness and affirm it. So just like a candle that has the potential to burn, we need someone to set it alight. 

My vision, therefore, is to live a life of significance, impacting and affirming lives! I believe our generation has a role to play in sharing not just only our achievements, but also to show the youth and women of Africa how we navigated through those challenges, and they too can achieve even more than we achieved.

Background Story to founding IpupaK Grow You (what are your roots, what connects your childhood to what you do now? Who are the most important people in your life and how did they impact you?) 

They say privilege is invisible to those who have it and IpupaK GrowYou, is an initiative motivated by my country’s journey, my personal and career growth trajectory, to give hope and inspiration to the youth and women in my country. To inspire them to grow from inside out and realise their full potential through structured mentorship. 

Growing up under a system that was limiting in so many ways, our motto is to build a community of belongingness, instead of living success in isolation. We mentor the youth and women to never despise small beginnings and how to break barriers no matter how bleak the future looks today. As a people belongingness improves our motivation, improves our health and that’s where we get a sense of confidence and comfort. 

One of the people who impacted my life greatly is my grandmother who played the hand of a disciplinarian. She solidified my faith in God in the way she wore God in her everyday chores and her strong African values. For example, she insisted we speak our native dialect (Oshiwambo) at home, despite it not being the norm in our community at the time. 

In founding IpupaK Grow You, I am inspired by the many different people who mentored and assisted me, those who whispered words of advice in my trying times. I am also inspired by those who fought for the liberation of our country, young Namibians who are trying to define their own reality, the great women in our society who are defying odds whom I look up to, and whom some of them I am fortunate to call my friends and family.

Image credit: Ipupa Kasheeta

Measured impact and achievements with IpupaK Grow You? 

It is important to note at this juncture, that as a young adult I have always mentored a number of young people through words of counsel and guidance way before I decided to come up with a structured mentorship platform, i.e. IpupaK Grow You. My relationship with most of my mentees has evolved to the point where I am now playing the role of a sponsor. The latter has culminated in some moving into executive positions and others pursuing post-graduate studies locally and abroad. 

Since the formation of IpupaK Grow You a total number of 260 participants have gone through our public mentorship events. In addition to this, the Empower Her class has currently 35 women on board who started the six-month mentorship class in November 2019. 

Our mentorship program is designed to equip participants with tools to grow confidence by cultivating critical leadership skills such as self-identity, interpersonal skills, handling difficult conversations, board-room techniques, visionary thinking and future skills needed for the fourth (4th) industrial revolution. 

On the Young adult empowerment frontier, we have 16 grade 10-12 learners who are part of our book club.

Image credit: Ipupa Kasheeta

The ethos of IpupaK GrowYou is centred around three pillars. Can you share them with us and how it teaches participants how to develop perseverance, overcome obstacles, and increase the inner ability to reach personal and professional potential through the support of motivated and accountable partnerships: 

Pillar1: Corporate leadership – How fertile is your ground: This pillar aims to provide a platform for corporates and individuals to re-energise and grow their talent pool to ensure that a vibrant leadership pipeline exists within the organisation. Corporates are challenged to reflect on the quality of talent it produces which is central to the belief that the seed of a crop, is realised or choked depending on the soil it falls on. 

Pillar 2: EmpowerHer Business Club: The club is geared to encourage personal and career growth of women in the world of work and society at large through structured networking, mentoring, exchange of ideas and leadership skills. The club further strives to uplift the girl- & boy child and vulnerable women. 

Pillar 3: Young adult empowerment Forum: This is a nurturing platform for young adults to build and discover their inner-selves, self- 

esteem and hone their social competence. It includes structured group sessions to equip participants with skills needed to pursue their purpose with passion, develop perseverance, overcome obstacles, make life-changes, increase inner ability to reach personal and professional potential through the support of a motivator and accountability partnership. 

Challenges and Lessons Learnt 

It is important to know that with mentoring, in spite of facing one own challenges, you could always be a beacon of light and encouragement to the next person. Also being cognizant of the fact that mentorship is a two-way relationship and in as much, it is perceived that the mentor gives out more, I realised that many of my answers that speak to my vision, challenges, and life, in general, are many a time revealed during my interaction with mentees.

With how far you’ve come, and your success, what achievements do you hope for in the next 5 years for IpupaK Grow You? 

  • To build partnerships with other organisations to bring together resources and expertise to grow and mentor African youth and women into confident leaders; 
  • To reach a wider audience in Africa – working with the best organisations around the globe to identify and address issues affecting particularly the African girl-child; and  
  • To document our journey and stories in a published book

Some women you consider as mentors?

I have a number of women I consult and look up to in my life, and they each serve a special purpose for specific disciplines in my journey. In my corporate world, I share knowledge and expertise with women in the ports operation sector from all over the world. My encounters with these fellow women have made a great impact on my career. 

In shaping IpupaK Grow You, I have sought advice and knowledge from other women who have been working tirelessly for the African girl child such as H.E. Monica Geingos (First lady of the Republic of Namibia), Dr Lulu Gwagwa (Philanthropist, South Africa), Dr April Ripley (Author, USA) and Ms Jennifer Alma Mieze (Social entrepreneur, Namibia) just to mention a few.

Image credit: Ipupa Kasheeta

Do you have a life philosophy or personal mantra that keeps you steady when the going gets tough? 

To give back to others requires courage and zeal from within. As human beings, we feel low in spirit at times, and I am always encouraged by these words to pick myself up and give more: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran.

 

The Leading Ladies Africa weekly interview series focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

 

 

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