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The Zambian woman … has arrived!, by Christine Matambo


I recently attended a funeral at Leopards Hill Memorial Park cemetery.

I couldn’t help but notice that 5 out of the 6 grave diggers were women! Grave digging, historically a male-dominated job, now has women working in it, and very efficiently!

This recent encounter prompted me to reflect deeply at just how much Zambian women have evolved. In business, the economy, politics, sport and indeed other sectors previously seen as the ‘preserve of men.’

I started with my own sector – Banking. At Standard Chartered, we make up 50 per cent of the Executive Management Team in Zambia.

We recently welcomed Dolika Banda, our first-ever female Board Chair – a distinguished Zambian woman! Zambia’s Banking sector has seen more appointments of female Chief Executive Officers (CEOs).

The CEOs of our major banks -ABSA, Citibank, Ecobank, FNB and ZANACO – are women.

And these banks are doing well in Zambia. In mining, I was particularly excited to learn that the much talked about new Kobold Metals – an AI-backed mineral exploration company – has a female CEO at the helm!

Read more: Building Zambia’s digital economy foundations through Digital Public Infrastructure, By P. Chinyama, E.Khisa, L.Mate and G Nhongo

Similarly, Zambian women are shining in historically male-dominated sports. Take Zambia’s most popular sport – Football. It is the national women’s football team – Shepolopolo – that is shining.

Internationally recognised names such as Barbara Banda and Racheal Kundananji, who placed Zambia firmly on the global women’s football map as the world’s most expensive female player, make us exceptionally proud.

The likes of Catherine Phiriand Esther Phiri make us tremendously proud as they, too, shine in their professional boxing careers.

In politics, since the first female Vice President was elected in 2015, having a female Vice President has become the norm in Zambia. In days gone by, women played vital roles in Zambia’s Liberation struggle.

The likes of Mama Kankasa and Julia Chikamoneka – a fierce activist and pioneer of freedom from colonial rule – amongst countless others.

Therefore, we must all recognise, applaud and celebrate theachievements of the Zambian woman – we have, indeed, arrived!

And as we commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, particular attention must be paid to the theme – Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.

At Standard Chartered, we are accelerating the progress of Zambian female-owned businesses through our Women in Technology (WiT) programme.

Since 2020, WiTempowers a cohort of 10 Zambian female entrepreneurs annuallyby building their business capabilities, access to finance and access to networks.

WiT also awards five of them with grants of USS10,000 each for them to scale-up their businesses using the power of technology. In 2024, we are proud to increase the number of grant winners from 5 to 6.

Whilst we celebrate the fact that ‘we have arrived,’ we must spearhead, invest and accelerate progress in those areas where the gaps remain evidently clear. Firstly, Equal Pay.

Second, we must find a solution to the domestic abuse, defilement and rape of girls and women which has become rampant in our homes and society at large. By doing this, we will, indeed, contribute significantly to accelerate our progress.

Let us continue to focus on removing barriers and implementing targeted interventions to enable opportunities for under-represented segments.

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