I sat down with Bertha Tobias, a remarkable individual whose name resonates with resilience and ambition in Namibia.
Meeting her for the first time was a privilege, as I was immediately struck by her presence – a blend of determination and humility that seemed to radiate from within. Bertha is known as a youth leader and #BeFree Ambassador. She is an author for the Namibian, contributing opinions to Namibia’s green energy initiatives, and she hosts her television show, Spotlight, which chronicles the stories of young African entrepreneurs, broadcasted on One Africa. However, perhaps the most significant recent achievement is being awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship 2024, becoming only the fourth Namibian to receive this honor. The Rhodes Scholarship is the world’s distinguished and oldest graduate fellowship at the University of Oxford.
“What drives me,” she began, her voice steady with conviction, “The first is my family.” Bertha spoke fondly of her upbringing, rooted in the belief in the transformative power of education. “Getting the best education possible for me has always been like a personal ode to my mother.”
But Bertha’s drive extends beyond familial ties. “I think I’ve always been the type of person who wants more,” she explained. “For some people that’s greedy, but I think there’s this beautiful sentiment about dying empty. I want to be on my deathbed and know that I did everything that I absolutely could have done.” Her words resonated deeply, highlighting a relentless pursuit of self-improvement and a commitment to leaving nothing unachieved.
Throughout our conversation, Bertha emphasized the importance of living each day to the fullest. “Living to your fullest looks different on different days,” she mused. “Sometimes you can give 100%, but sometimes you are so down and out that you can only give 40%. If 40% is all you have that day, then you’ve given 100%.” Her perspective on embracing the ebbs and flows of life with grace and resilience was both refreshing and inspiring. She adds, “Living a day to the fullest is a day where I’ve been guided by principle and not by people or the moment. For instance, if I’m tired and I don’t want to go to class. For me, it’s not about going to class it’s about discipline. It’s about showing up. It’s about knowing that people are paying a lot of money for me to go to that school, so I need to show up. My systems, ideologically and intellectually are about trying to find the first principle of the action and then doing the action not because of the action, but because of the principle behind it.”
As we delved further into her story, Bertha reflected on the significance of community. “People who have told me that they see so much in me and that I can go far have made me believe in my delusions.” She admitted with humility.
Her journey was not a solitary one, and in fact, Bertha does not believe that anyone is self-made. “Believing in yourself is half the story. If you don’t have other people around you who honestly believe in you, the self-belief flounders very easily because you need an infrastructure that’s going to help sustain that self-belief.”
Bertha’s story is one of resilience, ambition, and unwavering dedication to her goals. As our conversation drew to a close, she offered a parting piece of wisdom to our readers. “Most of what I’ve been lucky enough to accomplish has been just good old-fashioned, wake up, do it, pay your dues,” she reflected. Her words served as a reminder that success is not merely a product of talent or luck, but of relentless determination and hard work.
In the presence of Bertha Tobias, I found not just a remarkable individual, but a beacon of hope and inspiration for all those who dare to dream and strive for greatness. As I bid her farewell, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the privilege of bearing witness to her journey. I asked her what book had a significant influence on her life.
Bertha Tobias’s book recommendation is “The Awakened Woman” by Dr. Tererai Trent, a Zimbabwean-American woman who is a child bride survivor turned into a professor in the US. Bertha explains, “The reason her story is so moving is because it’s somebody who looks like me. I’m not taking advice from a white Silicon Valley tech founder. Those guys have cool things to say but they’ve never been to a village. Dr. Trent says that for her it’s been important to build homes for her dreams by talking about them. Therefore, I think that we should have childlike excitement about what we want to achieve so that we’re able to talk about it, even if we were to fail. Treat your dreams like they’re alive, not just secrets in your mind.”