Female inmates at the Windhoek correctional facility have praised the vocational training programme introduced by the Namibian Correctional Service (NSC) in 2019. Participating in activities such as baking, weaving and needle work, among others, makes time pass by faster, they say. 

The programme is aimed at empowering and capacitating female inmates with skills they will need to find employment or start their own small businesses after their release from the facility. While serving their sentences they bake, sew clothes and weave baskets which enables them to buy basic necessities as well as support their children. 

Among the inmates who have found meaning in the programme is 58-year-old Esmerelda Majiedt. She was sentenced to 17 years for defrauding her former employer of N$ 56.5 million. Up to now Majiedt has spent eight years at the facility. 

She says the programme makes time pass quickly and allows her to escape from thinking about the outside world. When we recently visited the facility, Majiedt and a fellow inmate were busy in the kitchen putting the final touches on their respective cakes. Not far from them were finished products: two boxes of mouth-watering muffins and koeksisters. 

Majiedt is passionate about baking. With the small income she earns from selling baked goods she buys basic necessities such as toiletries and sweets. 

The 58-year-old said that staying in prison and gaining baking skills made her realise that money is not everything. 

“I am very fond of sweet things. I think that is where my baking passion comes from. You won’t believe how quick the day passes when you just keep yourself busy. For me it’s like a gift to have this opportunity to gain skills. Money is not everything in life. If you consider the crime I have committed – now I have learnt that money is not everything. So, doing this, my focus is not just on the money, my focus is on something I enjoy to do and to also show what I can do,” Esmerelda Majiedt explained. 

Anthea Arnold, who is serving time for murdering her former boyfriend, sees the training programme in a similar way. It keeps her busy and makes her think positively about life, the 37-year-old said. Some of the income she gets from tailoring she sends to daughter. “It keeps me busy most of my time. I just concentrate on the needle-work. I don’t have negative or depressive thoughts. I have two kids. I send the money to my daughter, so she can buy herself something nice or add to her stationery.” 

NSC rehabilitation supervisor, Assistant Commissioner Hedwig Markus, said the assessment they conducted indicated that a lot of inmates find it hard to find employment after being released. Thus the vocational training programme mitigates this challenge. 

Ketty Tjipepa