Mavis Elias - Civil Engineering (2011-2016)

Brief: Received the Queen's Young Leaders Awards for 2018

Share your achievement/success story in detail. In December 2017 I was awarded the Queens Young Leader for the year 2018 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth for the work I do in my country, Namibia. The award recognizes young leaders from across the commonwealth who are doing exceptional work in their communities. My work in doing charity work started five years ago within the EM Love foundation which I founded and as a director of the One Economy Foundation. Both positions speak towards poverty eradication within my country and a sincere need to help the less fortunate. This experience has been able to shift my mentality and view of the world, in that there are certain ambitions I deemed unachievable and the world seemed a large place. However being granted an opportunity to meet the queen gave me the view that all things are possible. It put my world view into much clear focus and gave me the rare opportunity to see the world in real focus. It may be a large world, but everyone’s dreams are valid, including mine and for as long as we sell our abilities short, we rid the world of what we truly have within us. Meeting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth will always be a career highlight for me and in truth it humbled me. I felt incredibly blessed because so much work goes into both foundations I serve and it encouraged me to continue on the path I am. If anything, it was that tap on the shoulder that says, you’re okay, you’re doing great.

The journey of the residential week was subdivided into two elements, which is a course at Cambridge University in Cambridge and the London meetings. Each had its highlights as the time in Cambridge was catered in equipping us to become better leaders who are self aware and have skills that need to be polished and the time in Cambridge was centred around networking and meeting world leaders such as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May and the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland. Each and everyone of the interactions were so fruitful, however the question I tend to always ask world leaders is that if they could render themselves advise 20 years ago, to their younger selves, what would it be? Interestingly enough the answer is similar to many of them and it is that one should always remain true to yourself, to you moral and principles as they will guide you through life. The impression I left in my humble opinion, must be that I am fearless. I do not believe in letting fear rid me of my voice and that given any room or opportunity, my voice remains my biggest asset.

The core mandate of the EM Love foundation is to ensure that it plays an impactful role in poverty eradication and the core mandate of the One Economy Foundation is to bridge the poverty gap and provide access to the less fortunate to opportunities and self-betterment. When we speak on poverty eradication it is deemed by many in Namibia and the world alike as an impossible goal, and in truth it is a problem that defeats many governments. However, I am of the belief that one needs to start somewhere and ensure that there is a shift in the dynamics of poverty. The First Lady Monica Geingos always says that it remains the duty of every one of us to remove someone out of poverty and I will ensure that I play my part. I will continue to work tirelessly to be effective and be the wave of change that gives hope where hope is lost. It is my hope that the work we have been doing will one day yield result and that it is not short lived, and the impact can be seen for generations to come. In the interim, I will serve the Namibian people in the best way I know how by rendering the works of my hands to the less fortunate.

Tell us more about your journey leading up to this moment. When I started doing charity work at the age of 20, I had a conviction in my heart that I could affect change in the lives of the second economy. I have had this belief since I was a child. I spoke about it often, but I had not left footprints on the road to making this dream a reality. A few months before I turned 21, I had a moment of self-reflection, where I asked myself where my life was headed to. It kept zeroing in on the want to change and impact lives. So I asked myself, should I one day approach government to be granted an opportunity to open an orphanage, what will support this narrative? What have I done in my life that has shown my love for people and most importantly, my desire for equality?

This is what changed my life. It was that moment that my life started to unfold before my very eyes and I got to work. I started on this dream that always seemed to be far off in the future. I took it to be my NOW. That regardless of how seemingly small the splash was, I was going to start by diving in. If my efforts touched one life, that would be a step closer to my dream. There is a misconception that if it does not change a nation, it should not be done. The truth is far simpler…it just takes one life at a time to change a generation. There’s a popular saying that those that believe they can change the world are usually the ones that do.

As a result I have been doing charity work for the passed 5 years, and to date it has been the most fulfilling journey yet. The award came as a result of having done charity work for years and dedicating time to the betterment of my country.

What does this achievement mean to you and how will you use it to motivate others? Standing on a global stage places great responsibility on my shoulders in that I become a standing beacon of motivation. It not only places great responsibility on my shoulders but it also pushes me to achieve and aim for the galaxy. My sincerest hope is that any young girl or boy who looks at my journey and draw inspiration from it, allows both of us to grow together. I am incredibly young and have a vast amount of wisdom to acquire. This means that I will make mistakes more often than not, but that in itself shows that we are all growing and learning. The time that we are born into is the most fertile soil any generation has ever seen, because we are at the tip of an ice berg, we shake foundations and glass ceilings. It is our responsibility to believe in one another and ensure we stand firm, arms linked and push together forward. The joined success of many echoes a greater voice than the success of one.

What are your plans for the future? To be honest with you, I can honestly say I do not know. This may not be what many want to hear but I am very honest about my stand point at any given time. The world stage I was put on is much larger than I can begin to comprehend and if anything, intimidating. I know my core focus is and will always be the betterment of the economic stand point of my country and empowering the less fortunate. That remains, and considering I am young I have a lifetime ahead of me to ensure I play a part in poverty eradication within my country. This award has affirmed for me that my heart remains with the people of my country and I will spend my life serving my country and that is a lifetime journey. However, the two things I can highlight are;

1. Fighting poverty by creating access to housing – I am extremely passionate about equality. Equality in all spheres and especially in access to opportunities. This goes hand in hand with poverty eradication. In creating access to information, housing, sanitary water, education and decent living conditions, we create a cycle that predominately breaks the cycle of poverty. There stands an opportunity in the housing crisis, to introduce low cost housing as the answer to the ever growing housing crisis in Namibia. Poverty eradication is a vast subject and has many facets, and identifying the facet one would like to tackle creates a greater impact. In ensuring that my focus is centered on one facet, I create an opportunity to make an impact.

2. Breaking the barriers placed on women in society – The engineering industry is a vastly male dominated field, in the world and it is no different in Namibia. Although women are encouraged to join the engineering industry, it is particularly difficult to break the glass ceiling and sit in decision making positions and particularly management positions. It is with the knowledge that there is still a vast under representation of women in top engineering positions that I chose to pursue engineering. I welcome a challenge, and because I am aware of the under representation, I take it upon myself to create the representation and become a key player in ensuring that women have the choice to sit in top management seats in the engineering industry. To break the glass ceiling, and create opportunities for the future generation.

Share with us your success quote! To whom much is given, much is required. - The Bible “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?" - Marianne Wiliamson