By FELISTUS CHIPAKO – Chibombo
A jewel in the crown – is the best way to describe this wonderful and articulate daughter of the soil, Mrs Harriet Ivy Nyirenda Mubanga of Chibombo District in Central Province of Zambia.
I arrived at Mrs Mubangaâ€™s farm to learn about her invariable contribution to the dawn of independence in 1964, fifty years ago when Zambia was freed from colonial oppression.
Mrs Mubanga, daughter of the late Mr E R Nyirenda, was born in 1930 and blissfully celebrated her 84th birthday this year.Â In 1959, she married the late Harry Collins Mubanga, whoÂ passed on in 1984. They have a daughter, Beatrice Mubanga, born in 1960. Mrs Harriet Mubanga lives with her sister Hope Chama on their family farm.
Mrs Mubanga completed her higher education at Chipembi Girls Secondary School and is a teacher by profession.
She studied dressmaking in Canada and remembers teaching Native American Indians (Red Indians), who she says live just like Africans.
What makes Harriet Mubanga an asset to Zambiaâ€™s Jubilee Independence celebrations?
Harriet Mubanga played a very important role in developing and educating women to know what role they could play in society. She worked with Essy Johnson at Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation to educate women to play a vital role in the development of Zambia. She greatly influenced the married women from all walks of life, who were invited to attend mentorship sessions at the centre.
â€œThe essence was to prepare the women for independence. The response from the wives was good as they were ready to learn. In the last week of the training, the men were invited to attend the sessions. A lot of debate took place and this enabled the women to take their place in their homes and societyâ€.
Essy Johnson also developed a programme targeting wives of Cabinet Ministers so they could be educated in nutrition, hygiene and in presenting themselves to the public, among other things. They were expected to welcome and entertain visitors. Women were taught how to make their homes comfortable, clean, and bringing their families together. The husbands were very happy with the transformation they saw in their wives. When independence came, the women were ready to take up the challenge. Some of the notable students included the late Mrs Betty Kaunda, Mrs Kapasa Makasa and many others.
Mrs Mubanga describes this work as â€˜an honour and privilegeâ€™ and is proud to be associated with the coming of what she calls â€˜A New Eraâ€™! This has remained a great part of her life in her contribution to the development of Zambia.
â€œI am glad I was one of the people that helped shape the women for independenceâ€™.
â€˜With the independence era coming, there was excitement!â€Â she adds. â€œPresident Kaunda invited staff from Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation to State House. He welcomed us very well and made us feel at home. It was a memorable occasionâ€.
Harriet and her colleague Christine Mwela, were the first women to teach dressmaking on television at the then Television Zambia (TVZ) Kitwe studios.
When Essy retired, Mrs Mubanga took over the running of the Mentorship Programme at Mindolo.Â More programmes were introduced to complement the Mentorship Programme and these included mobile schools all over Zambia, including refugee camps like Meheba. Mrs Mubanga said this meant going round in rural areas and describes it as a marvellous experience, where women were taught how to earn money for their families. Their programme helped shed more light on the significance of empowering women.
Commenting on womenâ€™s development as Zambia commemorates 50 years of independence, Ms Mubanga says there is still a great need for women to be enlightened on developmental issues. She commended Mrs Daisy Ngâ€™ambi, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Gender and Child Development for her efforts in empowering women through the programmes they have put in place in agriculture and economic development of women.
â€œIn Chibombo District, Mrs Ngâ€™ambi has helped women who are involved in agricultural activities such as rearing pigs, chickens and goats,â€ she adds. â€œGovernment has tried since independence to develop women in all areas of human endeavour. Women in Chibombo want to learn to read and write and are ready to go back to school to achieve their goalsâ€.
She advised husbands to let their wives enhance their education to better the lives of their families. Mrs Mubanga emphasises that mentoring young girls is very important because young girls need to be inspired by role models.
â€œSpeaking to the younger generation helps the girl child see herself as one who has the potential to develop the countryâ€. She gave an example of Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation which started a mentorship programme on women grooming and development, and says the same can be done with the younger generation who have a lot of talent that needs to be tapped.
She said the best way to help young people is correction. Ms Mubanga says there is need to bring young girls together and mentor them to become good citizens. She further adds that there is need to identify leaders who love to see the country grow to solve problems being faced.
Mrs Mubanga added that there is also need for parents to be educated on issues of children on the street and the detrimental impact on their lives.
â€œItâ€™s the responsibility of parents to show concern and identify people to work on the issue of children on the street. There are people who have the passion and concern to eradicate this vice in Zambia,â€ she said.
Mrs Mubanga describes Dr Kenneth Kaunda as a leader who was concerned and was a good President. She said Dr Kaunda did his best and had started development in Zambia on a good note. She remembers interpreting Dr Kaundaâ€™s speech at a Young Women Christian Association meeting in her time at Mindolo. She also played a role in the start of the Girls Brigade and Red Cross in Zambia, who honoured her as one of the first few women in Zambia who passed the St Johnâ€™s First Aid.
Mrs Mubanga remembers how being in the Red Cross got her involved in events such as the Lenshina uprising, in administering first aid to the injured victims.
She also recalls her trip to New York, where Dr Kaunda had invited her to join 45 women to speak on politics, despite the fact that she was not involved in politics. While in the United States of America, Mrs Mubanga toured 10 states and went on to Houston to meet President Jimmy Carter. She was also privileged in her time, to lead a delegation to Malawi for a meeting. Due to the nature of the Programmes at Mindolo, other countries sent women participants to Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation for training. Mrs Mubanga also recalls her trip to Canada for theÂ annual Conference on Women in Agriculture.
Commenting on Zambia turning 50, Mrs Mubanga says Zambians should put political differences aside and help develop the country. She congratulated the young ladies and gentlemen on this occasion.
â€œDuring the independence struggle, women played the role of peacemaker. I remember Zambians being very bitter due to the oppression by the colonialists. There was a lot of stone throwing due to bitterness of ill-treatment.Â Zambians were treated like second-class people, we used to buy goods through the window and were called kafiar!â€ She added, â€œWe were fighting for identity and integrity.â€
As Zambia celebrates fifty (50) years of independence, Mrs Mubanga proudly says, â€œWe achieved what we fought for. Letâ€™s make use of what we haveâ€.
Ms Mubanga, is doing just that in Chibombo district. She and her sister Hope Chama grow trees for planting and they have customers from the surrounding farms, who come to buy the seedlings. They also run a community school for boys and girls.
â€œAs we celebrate our FIFTY YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE, let us remember that WE ARE INDEED PROUD AND FREE!â€
By FELISTUS CHIPAKO – Chibombo