An International Perspective on Women on International Women’s Day

March 8, 2017.admin.7 Likes.0 Comments

With International Women’s Day fast approaching a lot of conversations around the office, after spin class and in my living room have centered on the topic of women’s advancement and gender parity. These conversations have been insightful, heated and at the very least, entertaining. And they have encouraged me to reflect on my own experience in Zambia and ask myself how has my gender impacted my experience and what has my experience with other women been like? Women in Zambia, just like women in Canada, are the backbone of the family and the bedrock of the nation. Anyone who has worked with a woman, lived with a woman or is a woman understands this statement in full.

In fact, I have had the privilege of experiencing the incredible leadership of a female powerhouse on a day to day basis at Rent to Own. Our Operations Manager, Betty Kawambwa, runs a team of over 20 field members, reporting directly to our CEO. As the former general manager for Plinth Consultancy Services Ltd., the head of retail banking for United Bank of Africa and the senior business portfolio manager for the Intermarket Banking Corporation, Betty knows a thing or two about leading people and getting things done. On any given day she receives countless emails and phone calls requesting assistance or expertise and handles each with a logic and grace I hope to one day be able to emulate. She understands how to motivate individuals, how to bring a team together and how to be bold in the face of change, even when her ideas are being challenged and questioned. Many of the recent successes at Rent to Own are a direct result of her leadership. A true role model to not only the 16 female staff members at Rent to Own, but to the entire team, it has been an absolute joy getting to know Betty both personally and professionally over these last few months.

I have had many opportunities to discover traditional Zambian culture which have arisen as a result of my gender. If I had been male, I would not have been afforded the chance to attend Mumba’s Amatebeto (a traditional ceremony involving food, dancing and family held prior to a wedding) or been able to connect with my host mother, Mrs. Chiinda and her niece Carol by insisting that I help with day to day duties around the house during my village stay. I was able to enter these spaces and experience these realms simply because I was a woman and for that I am very grateful. To date, my safety has never been jeopardized in Zambia because I am a woman. I walk to and from work and move around with a great amount of freedom and respect.

I have been blessed with a group of female friends, both at and outside of work, that have given me the advice and support I require to be successful in my fellowship. These friends include, amongst others, a business development manager, a finance manager, a monitoring and evaluation manager, a program manager, a project manager, a consultant and an entrepreneur. It is an honour to be able to strategize with them, witness their success and achievements and be able to back them during challenging times. They have become my unit and I am not looking forward to saying those goodbyes at all.

As International Women’s Day approaches I encourage you to not only acknowledge the roles women play in the world today but to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world and continue to support the women in your life to #beboldforchange.

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