CHRISTINE CHISHA, Lusaka
SHE wears many hats and she is known as an entrepreneur, farmer, youth and civil activist.
But the head of the think tank the Policy Monitoring Research Centre (PMRC) is no ordinary woman.
Bernadette Deka at 30 has served in various units of the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
She has received many awards in her career so far, with the most recent being the Zambia Society for Public Administration in 2015 awarding her with the young leader award .
Born on May 18, 1987, Bernadette also serves on various Boards of Directors and is currently a trustee of the Esther Lungu Foundation, an organisation established by Zambia’s First Lady, which seeks to improve the lives of underprivileged Zambians.
Despite wearing many hats, Bernadette’s greatest heart is in policy and good governance.
“My passion is civil activism that, is what is taking my time. As long as I have a voice, I want to push Zambia’s development agenda and champion good governance”.
From primary to secondary school, Bernadette has always been a champion of activism which she believes extends to good governance. Before engaging in supporting a particular political party, she started with youth activism.
She belonged to a chain of youth organisations from the time she was at Roma Girls Secondary School up to the time she went University of Zambia. She belonged to the National youth constituency Assembly, the Zambia Model United Nations, Youth Alive and Operation Young Vote, driving the national youth policy across the country.
Bernadette brags of understanding what policy is at a tender age, something that has not taken her by surprise today that she is heading a policy think tank.
“I understand all levels of policy, levels of policy from formulation to implementation and impact assessment. It’s been easy for me to understand policy and how to drive it because I took interest to understand policy at an early age in my life,” she said.
Bernadette said the PMRC she is heading is a public policy think tank initiated by the Patriotic Front (PF) for the purpose of supplementing government efforts to drive and shape the national agenda through development and policy formulation which should tally with the party manifesto.
Bernadette said the past five years, since the PF came into power and with the use of the think tank, her organisation has been able to run independently without interference from the government.
The work at PMRC ensures that Government does not drift away from the promises made during election campaigns.
They also review statutory instruments (SI) and help the grassroots people understand what Statutory Instrument means.
“We get our recommendations drawn up, conduct research and advise government on the outcome, to avoid them entering a ditch. It’s a good initiative that other political parties can adopt and help their parties concentrate on service delivery and tangible things rather than dwell on character assassination,” she said.
Bernadette is confident that the current government is moving in the right direction in policy implementation like the social cash transfer, women and youth empowerment and the transitioning of the national development plan from 5th to the 7th national development plan.
Her organisation also keeps on reminding the government on the jobs they promised the youths, with government promising to create 150 jobs in every district.
On her role at Esther Lungu Foundation, Bernadette said the First Lady has shown confidence in young people and what they can bring to the table.
“I will work and deliver on my expectations and help drive the vision of the First Lady in uplifting the well-being of the under privileged in society,” she said.
Bernadette describes herself as a go getter and assertive person, who has natural love for humanity. She has since birthed a mentorship programme she is calling “Shaping the Future” focusing on young girls though boys
“A young woman who believes being young is not a hindrance to achieving goals, one can be what they want to be,” she said.could be mentored as well.
Her mentorship organisation focuses on girls aged 15 and 25 who they are mentoring on leadership, etiquette and equipping them to strive in any harsh environment.
“I want to be remembered as someone who steps outside to get something done even in a place where it is believed one cannot penetrate. I want to also be remembered as a young woman who has brought a new dimension of civil society activism as a whole.
“A young woman who believes being young is not a hindrance to achieving goals, one can be what they want to be,” she said.
Her role model is her mother Mary Deka whom she described as a strong woman, full of faith, a woman of character and substance. “Seeing her raise me to a woman I am, educating me, shaping my future and her not ever having received an education, she simply inspires me”.
Bernadette comes from a family of eight. She is a single mother of a boy, Nkonde. She is currently a student of Master of Science in Public Policy.
She is Catholic and believes in the power of the Holy Spirit.