First female Ward Counselor of Kabamba Speaks Of Her Journey
The word ‘woman’ in certain societies spells weak, dependent, child bearer and incapable. This is not so different in Zambia as evidenced by the gender imbalances in various sectors, decision making positions being one of them. Zambia has started taking steps to correct this imbalance, even electing Ingonge Wina vice president this year. Despite these changes, many girls and women, especially in rural areas, remain trapped in the culturally constructed roles and responsibilities that keep them disadvantaged.
Gladys Yumba became the first female Ward Counselor for Kabamba in the Serenje District of Central Province after being elected to office in 2011. Her position entails linking the council to the people of her ward to enable development. She therefore plays an integral role in identifying needs and priorities of development with the local people and feeding that information in the municipality’s planning process. During her tenure of office, she was appointed to the position of council chairperson, a position she held for two and a half years.
She also led the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programme in Kabamba ward as a Champion (CLTS local volunteer) that resulted in the end of open defecation in the area.
“Gladys is a selfless, self-motivated and hardworking person who has demonstrated this through her work and by quickly filling in the gap of a Champion after the one trained shortly left,” Said David Sakala, Serenje Rural Water and Sanitation Coordinator, who is also the CLTS focal point person. “I believe she genuinely did this for the success of the programme,” he added.
Asked how she manages to balance being a mother, wife, counselor and Champion, Gladys said she owes this to her supportive husband with whom she has initiated and implemented many development projects. She also states that she is motivated by her love for positive change, a spirit of hard work and excellence. “I am also motivated by my concern for the welfare of people in my community and since being a ward counselor is not a full time job, I have plenty of time to venture into other activities that are still beneficial to my community,” said Yumba.
“One of the substantial things that has assisted Kabamba Ward to be ODF is the strong three rope approach that includes civic leaders (council) , technocrats (Environmental Health Technologists) and traditional leaders,” said Tumba Mupango Akros WASH Surveillance Officer responsible for Serenje District. She further stated that this was a great achievement as Kabamba Ward would offer best practices to other chiefdoms working towards ending open defecation.
“From the introduction of CLTS, radical improvements and ownership of the programme by local people has been observed. They have also appreciated proper excretory disposal and behavioral change towards improved sanitation that the programme emphasizes,” said Langstad Hamwitala, Serenje Environmental Health Officer.
Gladys dates the identification of her leadership qualities to her early days at Boma primary school when she was appointed as class captain. Upon completion of her secondary education at Ibolelo High school, she and her husband in 2003 founded Maipalile, a community school whose objective was to increase the number of children that had access to free basic education.
As part of her work as a ward counselor, Gladys mobilized her community to apply for Constituency Development Funds (CDF) that resulted in the building of three bridges in the area, a market shelter in Nakasala and a mothers’ shelter at Kabamba Health Center. CDF is used as a poverty reduction strategy aimed at speeding up infrastructure development at the community level such as roads, markets, clinics and schools.
Gladys says she drew inspiration from her mother. “I got inspired to stand as ward counselor by my mother who was the first Regional Secretary for Serenje and Mkushi districts as well as a Community Development Officer under the leadership of President Kenneth Kaunda,” she said.
Asked where she sees herself five years from now, she indicated that she intends to stand as a Member of Parliament in the 2016 general elections as she believes that will enable her to serve more people and add substantially to Zambia’s development.
About Maswabi Precious Matantilo
Precious Matantilo is an Advocacy and Communications Officer for Akros and is a Global Health Corps fellow for 2014/2015. Before joining Akros, Precious worked for the Commonwealth Youth Programme as programmes assistant. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies from the Zambian Open University.