Celebrating Great Women in Zambia

AS the country celebrates 50 years of independence this year, I would like to dedicate this week’s column to the contribution that women have made towards development of the country at various levels.

Apart from highlighting women’s contribution towards independence, I would also like to point out the lack of recognition and appreciation for women’s contribution at various levels.

It is probably agreeable for most of us that women are natural leaders in their own making and perfectionist whose leadership qualities are exhibited even from their home set up.

You may recall that not long ago, I discussed how the late Mama Betty Kaunda played a key leadership role in her family at the time the first republican president Dr Kenneth Kaunda was away during the struggle for independence.

But it is not an exaggeration of fact to state that a number of women have equally contributed greatly on the political front as they struggled to emancipate Zambia from political chains.

Late Mama Julia Chikamoneka’s efforts in the freedom fight stand out as one of the great contributions by Zambian women.

Mama Chikamoneka’s contribution was recognised and appreciated in 1969 when the first republican President Dr Kaunda bestowed her with the Order of Distinguished Service.

She has left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of many Zambians, especially fellow freedom fighters because of her resolve to see a liberated Zambia.

Her immense contribution is surely a demonstration of the country’s heroics who have illustrated the love for mother Zambia.

Mama Chibesa Kankasa has been in the news and probably needs no better introduction to most of you because she has been availing herself as a symbol of unity and love.

She has been recognised as one of the vocal critics of the colonial rule who fought to ensure that the Rhodesia government stopped discrimination.

She was put in cells for trying to shop in a “white man’s” shop together with her husband, but that did not stop her from fighting the discrimination against the blacks.

She recently revealed how she and other women supported the men by cooking and washing for them, as they fought running battles with the colonialists.

The throwing of stones was very significant, because according to Mama Kankasa, the fighting was not aimed at killing the colonialists, but was a way to revolt against their rule.

She gly believes that women played a very critical role in Zambia’s liberation struggle, without which, the revolution would not have been a reality today.

Perhaps it is important to state that even after the attainment of independence, women have continued to serve this country in various areas.

In fact, they have become even more educated and knowledgeable than ever before.

Experts in the field of science, technology and economics are no longer rare to find.

However, despite women’s great contributions to the independence of this country many have not been recognised as they should have been.

I feel their positions at various levels have been lowly placed when compared to their male counterparts.

In many cases, decision-making positions have been a preserve of men, while women have been relegated to administrative positions.

Feminist activist Sara Longwe in a discussion organised by Zambia Open University recently said it was saddening, that 50 years after the country’s independence, very few women were in decision-making positions.

Ms Longwe stated that in fact, patriarchal gate-keeping prevented a number of women from actively participating at various levels.

Another activist Gladys Mututakwa speaking at the same function also said it was sad that 50 years after independence gender equality was still an issue.

Ms Mutukwa said it must be noted that the contribution of women at all levels will bring about development to the nation.

Most women are admittedly in administrative positions in this country, which I feel it is source of concern.

For instance, there is currently only 12 percent of women representation in parliament, 11 percent representation at cabinet level and only six percent representation at local government level.

This should be a concern for Zambia as a country as it sparks questions as to whether we are serious towards domestic and international commitments we signed on gender.

It is against this background that we should be asking ourselves as a country: Where are we missing it?

I am not ashamed to mention that a number of countries in the region are way ahead of us with regard to women representation at decision-making levels, cabinet and local government levels.

I recall that it was after the Beijing Conference that there was so much hope for the Zambian women, yet nothing seems to have changed.

Seriously, it is not just about reaching the 50 per cent threshold on gender representation by 2015 as resolved by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), but it is all about doing what should have been done years back in this country.

To this end, affirmative action is the only route.

For comments nanamufaya@gmail.com

Source : The Times of Zambia

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