ARTHUR MWANSA, Mwense
AT THE age of 11, she engaged and actively participated in the struggle to achieve political freedom for many.
Her vision and leadership qualities have made it easier for her to succeed politically. And she has now set important milestones in her quest.
Grace Kawama Chitakwa, 65, who was born on September 19, 1950 in Mwense, Luapula Province, and hails from Chief Lukwesaâ€™s village, is former Mwense district Patriotic Front (PF) Nkanga ward councillor; now serving as chiefsâ€™ representative.
Ms Chitakwa, a retired teacher, is a daughter of Titus Mpundu Kawama and Elizabeth Muango. She started her primary school in 1959 at Chimpempe Mission School, an institution owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
She also attended Kalenda (Mumporokoso) and Chakopa Primary schools in Mansa, where she keenly participated in most activities such as sports and home economics.
Ms Chitakwa did her senior education at Mbereshi (also spelled and pronounced Mbeleshi) Basic School. Mbereshi is a village in Luapula Province, named after Mbereshi River on the northern side.
Between 1978 and 1979 she did her teacher training course at Mansa Teachers Training College, after which she was posted to Chingola Primary School on the Copperbelt
In 1989 she taught at Milemu Primary School, in Ndola; a year later, in 1990, she was transferred to Nsakaluba Primary School in Mwense.
Ms Chitakwa was again transferred on promotion as deputy head teacher at Kawama Basic School between 2000 and 2002. She retired in 2004 at Kapena Basic School.
Like many, her mother (Elizabeth) wanted her to have an independent, professional career, and her father (Titus) felt that his daughterâ€™s abilities and opportunities should not be limited by gender.
Ms Chitakwaâ€™s early political development was shaped mostly by the sufferings people of Mwense district were subjected to by those in authority.
During her tenure of office as councillor and chiefsâ€™ representative between 2006 and 2011, Ms Chitakwa has played a vital role in shaping and directing the effectiveness of local services for the benefit of local people in Mwense.
She has since become a distinguished representative of chiefs Lukwesa, Lubunda, Kashiba, Mulundu and Katuta Wampemba.
Ms Chitakwa said recently in an interview in Mwense that â€œPeople stand for elections for many reasons. For me, I desired to speak on behalf of the local poor people. Over and above, I needed to shape the future of the local communityâ€.
Despite her gender, Ms Chitakwa is certain that she successfully and diligently served residents in Nkanga ward.
â€œI have always been willing to work with everyone irrespective of their political or religious background. My position is important; I am the voice and champion for the voiceless. I play a pivotal role in the overall effectiveness of local government,â€ she said. She is required to be neutral, and should be impartial as she carries out her responsibilities.
Ms Chitakwa is pleased that Government is making strides in ensuring that good schools are being established in all communities in Mwense.
â€œI want to personally thank Government for its efforts in ensuring that education is brought closer to the people in our communities. We have seen the construction of more schools in Mwense. We commend Government for this commitment. We hope this development will help reduce on the number of children dropping out due to limited classrooms,â€ she said.
She noted that there was an increase of girl children dropping out in the district as a result of pregnancies and early marriages.
Ms Chitakwa is, however, dismayed with the slow pace government projects are being undertaken in Mwense.
She said most of the local contractors are not committed to ensuring that the projects are completed within the stipulated period.
Some of the projects cited are the construction of the civic centre at a cost of K1.9 million and a market at Old Kalanga market site and a modern district hospital.
Ms Chitakwa said, â€œWe are being inconvenienced by local contractors who are unable to complete various projects; the best Government can do is to engage Chinese contractors because they have always shown commitment to work and they always meet set deadlines.â€
Ms Chitakwa said it is sad that maternal mortality rates are high in Mwense because expectant mothers can only access health care from Mansa General Hospital.
â€œIt is unfortunate that expectant mothers have to travel long distances to access maternal health care. Most of them end up dying or losing their unborn children.
We are appealing to President Lungu to come to our aid to ensure that the construction of the only modern district hospital is completed without delay,â€ the emotionally-charged councillor said.
She is the founder of Ntondo Primary School, which has since been handed over to Government and it caters for over 600 pupils from grade one to grade seven.
Ms Chitakwa is a mother, wife and a member of the United Church of Zambia.
ARTHUR MWANSA, Mwense