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Plight of Zambian women in Mali

SOME of the 35 Zambian women living in Mali listen to Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba (not in picture) who addressed them in Bamako recently. PICTURE: MACKSON WASAMUNU

MACKSON WASAMUNU, Bamako
NOT all is gloomy for Zambian women living in Mali and other West African countries because they can always come back home, as and when they decide.
This is the government’s assurance that will continue resonating in the minds of Zambian nationals in Mali, some of whom are stranded in that country without proper identity documents and are facing serious challenges.
Many of these women lose important documents such as national registration cards and passports during the assimilation process into the local culture immediately they arrive in Mali with their spouses.
The women found themselves living in the West African nation after getting married to Malians. There are over 200 Zambian women living in Mali.
Some of them have been widowed, others divorced and facing numerous financial problems while others are somewhat enjoying their lives on foreign land.
According to the Zambian Mission in Abuja, Nigeria, there are also some women without identity documents who are living in the hinterlands of Mali.
This is a category of stranded Zambian women in Mali who cannot easily be accessed by the Mission in Abuja to assist them sort out their problems.
One such woman is Agness Mulaya from Chief Shibuchinga in Lufwanyama district on the Copperbelt. She is a mother of 12 children and 24 grandchildren who has lived in Mali for 24 years.
Ms Mulaya was divorced over 15 years ago and lives in the Malian capital, Bamako, where she was left with children by her former husband.
She too has no valid identity documents to enable her travel back to Zambia to visit her relatives.
In the case of Ms Mulaya, she does not want to return to Zambia to stay but only desires visiting her relatives since she has been away for a long time.
Other women are relatively comfortable living in Mali and can afford to fly to Zambia whenever they want to visit their relatives.
These women are either running flourishing businesses or are in formal employment.
Some of them are ready and willing to come back and invest in Zambia.
President of the Association of Zambians living in Mali, Lillian Mvula, is a teacher by profession working in the public service where she teaches English at one of the institutions of higher learning in Bamako.
Ms Mvula is married to a Malian national, a Mr Toure.
“Many of our members are yearning to go back home to visit their relatives,” Ms Mvula said during a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba, who was in Bamako recently to represent President Lungu at the Africa-France Summit.
“Most of us are concerned about where to start from when we get back, we want to be assisted with acquiring land so that we do not become laughing stocks in society,” Ms Mvula said.
She said some Zambians in Mali have the capacity to invest in infrastructure back home if only they can be given incentives such as land.
Ms Mvula said most Zambians in Mali only want to go home to visit their families because of the many years they have been away.
Meanwhile Mr Kalaba, who took some time to interact with the Zambian community in Mali, assured them that Government will not neglect anyone desiring to return home.
“I will go back home and report to President Lungu, and he will find a way of getting you back to Zambia. He listens a lot and he will make sure that you return. If you want to come back home and you’ve got no ways of getting back, always remember that you have got a country, very peaceful country, doing very well,” Mr Kalaba said.
The minister also reminded the women that their country is one of the eight nations in Africa which have not experienced any form of civil strife.
“We should thank God for the Zambia that we have, you are a special people because you come from Zambia,” he said.
He encouraged those doing well in their different spheres of life to make good of their resources by investing back home.
Mr Kalaba, who addressed the women in both French and English, said: “I want to tell you that the Government of the Republic of Zambia is up to speed in ensuring that you, the people living in Mali, participate in the economy of the country with the diaspora policy in place.”

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