SITEMBILE SIWAWA, Lusaka
SEATED in the seat of authority, ready to take up the challenge, Linda Kasonde, the newly-elected first female Law Association of Zambia president, looked confident, composed and aware of what that office holds for her.
Meeting her in person and for the first time, one could tell that she is not only intelligent but a force to reckon with. She beat two male contenders and emerged victorious at the just-ended LAZ annual general meeting held in Livingstone last weekend.
Having assumed office, the first three things on her diary are: to do the right thing, to be progressive and being bold as she conducts her day-to-day work.
â€œI want to leave a legacy of having done the right things and be an example of true leadership to women and girls,â€ Ms Kasonde says.
Indeed true leadership, advocacy and activism are her trademarks that helped her sail through the election which she is ready to display in her quest to carry on the mantle of the association to greater heights.
Ms Kasonde, who is currently an administrative partner of the Mulenga Mundashi Kasonde Legal Practitioners, notes that it is not just about winning an election but rather it is about delivering on the promises one made.
â€œWinning an election is not enough but I must ensure I deliver on the promises I made, that are what true leadership is all about,â€ she expressively said.
The ardent social activist who draws her inspiration and strength, from her mother is proud that she has opened the door where no woman walked and hopes to leave it open for other women to walk through.
â€œNow that I have opened the door, it is time that other women aspire for this position and aim even higher. Such positions require greater strength, and women in leadership are perceived and judged harshly because it is rare to find a woman in such shoes,â€ Ms Kasonde said.
One thing for sure is that women bring a new dimension to the leadership table and the more women there are in decision-making positions, the more equity and equality society is bound to have.
This is why she is prepared to bring equity and equality to both men and women without disadvantaging anyone based on sex.
Perhaps, her steady progression and rise through the ranks at LAZ are what has made her so enthusiastic about her job.
â€œI started out as an ordinary member and rose through to the ranks of convenor of committees then honorary secretary, vice-president and now president. So you can see that my rise has been a steady progression, it is not something I just jumped into,â€ she recalls.
What is more interesting and appealing about her rise to the presidency is that she had no woman role model to look up to as there has been none before her.
â€œMy favourite motto is by Madeleine Albright, Americanâ€™s first woman Secretary of State of the United States, which says there is plenty of room for mediocre men but there is no room for mediocre women, meaning society judges the performance of women in jobs, research fields and industries typically dominated by men as reflective of the entire female gender,â€ Ms Kasonde notes.
Her reaction to the announcement of her victory, she says, came as a surprise because it could have gone either way but she describes it as overwhelming, thrilling and a big achievement.
She said, â€œBut somehow I knew that I was going to make it based on my track record and performance, the whole time I have been at LAZ. I am glad the people I worked with like my past president James Banda and immediate past president George Chisanga, really they mentored and supported me.â€
According to International Bar Association, Ms Kasonde holds an LLB degree from the University of Leicester in England and Masters degree in Law from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, an Office of the Womenâ€™s Interest Group Committee of the International Bar Association and convenor of the continuous professional development committee of LAZ.
Her passion for social activism and fight for human rights and justice draws as far back as her high school days in Swaziland in the 1990s where she was taught to do community service.
During her high school days, it was mandatory to do community service and she did it with so much joy, especially that she was also mentored by her parents to always be of service to others.
The daughter of late Joseph Kasonde and Doctor Dorothy Kasonde said she did a three-year programme in law in Mbabane, Swaziland, which earned her a first job at the National Legal Aid Clinic for Women under LAZ.
â€œAt the clinic we would provide women with free legal services and I worked there for three years and that is when I joined Mulenga Mundashi law firm. I rose to becoming a partner at the age of 30 and a few years later, I was given the honour of being made full partner,â€ Ms Kasonde reminisces.
Having been raised to value herself to be anything she wanted and have a profession, she is elated that she has proved a good child to her parents and still practising what was instilled in her.
Apart from being a lawyer, social activist and womenâ€™s empowerment advocate, Ms Kaonde is also a director for Alchemy Women in Leadership.
It is the hope of everyone that as a woman, she should be a mentor to fellow lawyers, be a voice of the voiceless in society and help bring sanity and justice in our society.
SITEMBILE SIWAWA, Lusaka