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Chimango Chikwanda: Striving to unlock women’s leadership skills

HARDWORK, determination, and love for serving people are an apt description of Chimango Chikwanda, a woman intent on making an imprint in supporting a higher representation of female leadership. CHRISTINE CHISHA brings her out:
CHIMANGO Chikwanda has a unique fondness when it comes to issues of the girl-child. She also speaks passionately about her dedication to supporting a higher representation of female leadership.
The brain-child of Alchemy Women in Leadership, Ms Chikwanda is also director of Human Resource and Training at the Zambia National Commercial Bank (Zanaco).
Born in October 1973 in Lusaka, Ms Chikwanda is the third in a family of six.
“growing up as a tomboy, I was very mischievous and I loved athletics.
“I attended my pre-school in Lusaka and I deliberately ensured that I failed pre-school because I did not want to move to another stage, so I did pre-school for two years, “she said.
Ms Chikwanda said after two years of pre-school she moved to Saint Mary’s and during her assessment she spoke so well that she was awarded a place without under-going the uptake test.
She said when she got to grade one she could not even write her name. “That was the beginning of my academic career,” she recalls.
Ms Chikwanda whose father, General Benjamin Mibenge was army commander then, relocated to Canada in grade six when her father was sent into diplomatic service and she completed her primary education there.
Her parents were later transferred to Ethiopia and because they wanted their children to undergo British education, Ms Chikwanda was enrolled in a girls’ school at Tigoni academy in Kenya.
“It was the days at Tigoni academy, a boarding school which I consider the most important time of my life because the headmaster at the school shaped me to be who I am today. He was a soldier, who pushed me and the other girls at school to do our best.
“The headmaster challenged us to never allow our results to be below the boys in other schools and he never allowed us to think of careers marginalised to women and this made us compete with the boys’ schools”, she said.
Ms Chikwanda said at Tigoni, their motto ‘Tag girls try, tag girls do’’ made the girls live up to it and excel at academic and sports competitions.
She said leadership skills were also instilled in her during her secondary school days where the headmaster encouraged them to be team leaders who looked out for each other.
After completing her secondary school education she proceeded her education with a-levels in the United Kingdom (UK) at Concorde College and later studied for a Bachelors in Economics and graduated with a merit.
Ms Chikwanda came back to Zambia and upon her return she met her husband Bwembya and they got married after four years of dating. The couple has three children.
When her first born was six months old, she was awarded a scholarship to do her masters and left her child with her parents and upon her return got a job with Price Water Coopers.
She has worked for SABMiller, Zain now Airtel before finally finding herself at Zanaco.
Ms Chikwanda said while working for Zain she started a Human Resource consulting firm which later gave birth to Alchemy Women in Leadership after observing that she was the only female executive in every organisation she served.
“At that point I started wondering what has happened to women, the brilliant brains, why the women were not making it to executive level or to be Managing Directors,” Ms Chikwanda said.
She said based on her work at SABMiller and Zain where she did a lot of leadership training and development, team development and dynamics and her own experience she got an idea why women could not make it.
Ms Chikwanda said,” When I did my research I found  that women were limited because of upbringing and how that they were taught to behave in a certain way. I thought of leadership capacity development because I believe people or organisations want people who can push and give independent views.”
She said she created a network of women who meet to discuss business like men do after work.
Ms Chikwanda said Alchemy Women Leadership has been linked with Oxford University which has helped the organisation develop self-awareness, negotiating, network and communication modules.
Currently, Alchemy Women Leadership has also launched a girls programme in collaboration with United Nations Fund for Population Agency (UNFPA) to mentor young girls.
“We want to connect leaders with emerging leaders in the girls mentorship programme, who will guide the girls from a tender age to be aware of what to expect in primary, secondary , tertiary education  till they start working,”.
Ms Chikwanda, a Christian loves spending time with her family and says she is inspired by women like her mother, and mother–in-law, her friend Kondwa Chibiya, Zambia Daily Mail Board chairperson Mizinga Melu and former Barclays Bank managing director Margret Mwanakatwe.
She described these women as selfless, kind, independent and willing to share.
Ms Chikwanda believes this generation is for women to thrive through empowerment, a cause for which she wants to be remembered.
“I want to leave a legacy of helping women and young girls unlock their leadership skills at all levels of society, ensure that they have access to education and just to give a helping hand and changing people’s fortune,” Ms Chikwanda said.

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