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"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Inaugural MUNTU: Kabungo Precious Mumbi-Habeenzu - 10 Questions

This is the last part of the first MUNTU and Zed series from Kabungo Precious Mumbi-Habeenzu.  In keeping with my 3-4-10 series, here is the interview with her where I asked her 10 Questions about Zambia, Africa, the media and how she feels we are seen and should be seen, as well as her thoughts on being and African woman and on the African man.

Nationality/ies: Zambian
Age: 28
Countries you have lived and studied in: Zambia, Namibia
African countries you have visited: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Kenya, Chad, Botswana
Education: BA Media Studies and Sociology, University of Namibia (UNAM)
Profession(s):  Communications Specialist
Personal Interests: Writing, Gardening, Family, Singing, Video production, Inspirational books, Cuisine, Fashion, Cuisine, Basketball,
Social Media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blog, Website):  LinkedIn, I’m too lazy and too afraid of getting addicted to join anything else

10 questions

Muntu means person in the tongue of Mwana Ba Afrika’s mothers before her.  As an acronym it stands for: 
That is what Africa and Zambia in particular are. Also black women have this nice natural look and what I believe to be the best colour in the world, which makes them stand out and this is mind-blowing to experience.

African trees provide shade from the sometimes intense and scorching sun and the continent itself has this warm welcoming feel that overpowers everything.  Umbrellas can also be multicoloured and I feel this symbolises the different personalities that you find in Zed where we have a down-to-earth, cultured nature and an unparallelled friendliness that is unique to Africa.

Nature/ Natural
Keeping it natural symbolises African natural beauty both in the landscape and as a people.  We have such natural beauty in abundance. I love anything to do with nature.

Every human being should have that space in themselves to be tolerant.  Our different personalities should blend as it is hard, but necessary to grow and live with others. 

I am referring here to untapped beauty in all its form: what stands out on the inside can’t be judged from the outside the first time.  It’s about getting to know people and not judge them automatically from appearances. Leave space for the untapped beauty beyond.  This applies to the way Zambia and Africa are viewed from the outside too.

Describe yourself in 3 words, list 4 things you that make you happy and describe Africa in 10 words.
3: Kind. Ambitious. Intelligent.

4: My daughter and husband.  Family. Waking up every day as it is a blessing to see another morning and be alive. Good Health.

10: Cultured. Tasty Food. Colourful. Natural. Beauty. Industrious. Warmth. Wisdom. Wild.

Recommend 3 websites, blogs and/ or books, 4 movies and/ or series and 10 songs and/ or music videos.
Of course! Sending the love right back to my niece.

It’s Your Time by Joel Austin
This inspirational book opened my eyes to a lot of thing and helped my through difficult circumstances.  It changed my way of thinking. I no longer complain about about things not going my way - it’s about thinking about and making the change. This book gets you to take leadership of your life.

I found this website while working for the World Food Programme, WFP, without realising it was linked to WFP. I was looking for a platform to do a fashion show  to benefit starving children and it help shape the event and opened my eyes to what is going on in Zambia, rather than looking further out.  It is a great site to find information to make comparisons between Africa and the rest of the world and learn from other situations. Young people should have that interest and know what they can do differently because it could be any one of us who needs help  and/ or who can provide solutions in the future.

4: Blue Lagoon
This was the first interesting movie I watched and also the first with nudity. I had a huge crush on the guy.  It taught me a lot about coming of age. I watched it when I was 11 and afterwards I started noticing the changes in my body. 

I had a crush on him too. It was always on TV as a child in the 80s.

Shades of Sin (Brazil)
I love a bit of intrigue!

We have to support local talent and productions.

10: As you will see by this list I L-O-V-E Dancehall!

1.      Queen Of The Pack by Patra
Always had her hairstyle as a teenager
2.       Make My Day by Buju Banton
3.       All On Me by Sean Paul
5.       It’s About Time by Boom Shaka
6.       Shibobo by TKZee
7.       House, Money, Car by Nalu
8.       Ngafikilisha by JK
9.       Here and Now by Luther Vandross
10.   Street Thing by Aaliyah

What have you or do you contribute to Zambia’s development economically, politically and or socially?
When you win Miss Zambia there is no set program that you have to follow, as in many other countries around the world - you have to find your own feet. I started on a number of projects and made sure that they were different from what is usually is expected such as the usual suspects HIV/ AIDS and poverty. I really wanted to challenge myself to think outside the box and use my position to highlight aspects of Zambia that needed looking at that were being sidelined.  This led me to the Road Safety.  This issue was particularly important to me as a dear friend was one of seven fatalities in a bus accident that caused 40 casualties.   I was sponsored by the FIA Foundation based in London to attend first UN Assembly on Road Safety in Geneva and was also endorsed by the Ministry of Health to represent Zambia. I was privileged to work with other ambassadors for a month about what can work in our respective countries in terms of Road Safety advocacy.  I then returned to work with RTSA to design and implement youth educational programs.  Teaching should start in childhood, at nursery, so kids grow up with an awareness of how dangerous the road is. What I achieved in 2006-7 is still ongoing and has been passed on to subsequent Miss Zambias.

I also initially did a lot of orphanage work but lost interest as the situation in Zambia is quite exaggerated. At first glance it looked like they needed sponsorship and I worked tirelessly to get them the financial support that was seemingly needed.  I developed a close relationship with the children and the people running the institutions and it became evident that many of the organisations use the children to get financial support for selfish purposes which shouldn’t happen and I wasn’t going to enable that.  An instance of this was when I checked up on foodstuffs I had donated the day before and found that the staff had shared it amongst themselves and the kids were starving at breakfast because none of the food was there for them!  However there were orphanages that were truly run from the heart, such as Cheshire Home in Chawama, which really stood out. It is run by Nuns and they have a board who are committed and involved.

Now apart from my salary being heavily taxed, I continue to work in development. My last job was at UNICEF. In August I start with Chemonics , USAID, based at the Ministry of Education as the Communications Manager. It is a new project aimed at establishing community schools and helping government schools in curriculum improvement, especially in the rural areas, and advocating for girl-child education.  We need to stop prioritising male education only so as to have females work around the house till they are married.  We have made progress but there is still a huge gap.  Schools are also empty at certain times of the year especially during the planting and harvest seasons. Telling children they have rights and not be afraid to speak up and say that school is important among other things is what I want other children to enjoy, just as I will ensure for my daughter.  I am still active in Road Safety as I think that the government can save a lot of money to spend on other issues if things are improved.

What do you think is special about being an African woman?
African women are blessed to be able multi-task!! We are able to do more than 10 things at the same time and we do all of that well and with no complaints. Secondly, there are no restrictions in terms of how your body is - we are not criticized for having curves and we can be all sizes which from what I have seen, other women around the world are not afforded. We have well toned bodies so it always surprises me when the media says otherwise. Come to Zambia or somewhere in Africa and see how beautiful we are.  Also our culture is still there despite modernity. We still retain our practices and respect them and this sets us apart.

What do we, as African women, need to improve and how?
We need to come out our shells a little more - think outside the box and not always conform to what is expected and what we see others doing.  African women are becoming more and more ambitious and want to further their education, and in most cases are highly educated yet the HIV and AIDS  is still very high in women as compared to men. What is it that we are doing wrong? Mindset on Ccondom use still has to change too -  WOMEN NEED TO LEARN TO NEGOTIATE FOR SAFER SEX REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THEY ARE MARRIED OR SINGLE! In short we need to live for us as women.  Recently I’ve seen  women becoming more economically self-reliant and I’d like to see that continue. Building a future for ourselves and our children by jointly making decisions with our husbands is so important. Let’s continue changing, we may be homemakers but we can also take charge and venture outside, earn our own money, work for ourselves. We still lack that confidence. We can do what men can do.

What do you think is special about the African man?
Well, like my husband, they are extra romantic, highly intelligent sensitive beings with a lot of respect for their women (whether mothers or spouses). They can me understanding, extra-supportive of decisions women make, well-natured and always thinking of the future and the welfare of the family.  The African man loves good food and is very conservative. I used to be a huge spender - I would spend my last ngwee and be stuck the next day. He thinks about why he was spending first and helped me plan for things, he helped me grow.

What does the African man need to improve and how?
African men need to begin to accept the new African woman - her confidence, decision making capabilities, her multi-tasking and her equality in work. They need to get out of the mindset that they have the upper-hand and have mutual understanding. They need to participate in making joint decisions and not hold back because they are worried about what other people will say - it is not a sign of weakness. Gone are the days where the woman is running around like a headless chicken. My husband helped with the diapers. Gender education and equality is essential for this country and the continent’s future. Finally, African men should also learn to stick to one sexual partner.

What role do the African Diaspora and the global community have to play in the continent’s development and identity?
Our culture is our identity as a continent, but as the world has evolved, so should our cultural beliefs and practices - we need to adjust to fit into the current environment culturally. We can learn from the world and other countries.  The disasters that have been happening are not so common here and we should be thankful that we do not have severe floods and earthquakes and have always been a peaceful nation. The well developed countries can help us to figure out how to reach that stage, especially the most recent nations that have bypassed us.  We need to ask how we can be less dependent from the lessons learnt by others.

Are you satisfied with the way Zambia and Africa are portrayed in the media to the world?  
Zambia: No, not at all. When you are out there and you watch something it’s ALWAYS something negative. Poverty-stricken, HIV/ AIDS, typical Africa.  Yes these are huge problems, but there is more to us than that. Why don’t we make the news with our successful development programs, our economic improvement, our beauty, what we have to offer?!  You have to personally recommend places and for people to know and visit. We also have a huge role to play and need to brand ourselves better and find better communication tools to advertise and promote ourselves.  Everyone has something to hide, why do we always have to show everything? There is good to oppose the bad. I also don’t like how certain Zambians talk ill of our country. We should be patriotic despite the bad. How can we develop if we dwell on our bad experiences? If it’s not correct, voice it and then change it.  Yes there are limitations in our media but we are free enough to speak out, we won’t be shot at, we do enjoy that privilege as I am right now.

Africa: Totally not happy. People overseas only ever know about South Africa when we have 54 countries on the continent with the recent edition of South Sudan!  We are seen as this disease haven - come here to die is how we are portrayed. I have worked with a lot of international donors and there is so much talk of precautions to the point that people bring along things like toilet paper! It’s like we have nothing but a huge uncivilised jungle to live in! Again it comes down to how we market ourselves. We are all Africans and should help each other.  People are always surprised how warm and generous we are and how they can find what they need. Corruption, HIV and AIDs and poverty are also problems faced by other countries.  We have our own problems and solutions and we need to reassess how we portray and tackle them on the global stage.  We can also be a learning hub, we need to highlight this. We are like the stereotypical female being dominated by the male continents. We are more than what we are conceived to be. We have some of the greatest philosophers  - we can be great teachers too.

For videos on the 4 things Kabungo has learnt from your experiences as a student in Namibia, Miss Zambia,  mother and wife, and a professional in Zambia, as well as the 3 places and or things that make Zambia special you can find them on the blog here and on the MwanaBaAfrika YouTube Channel.

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