Zambian by birth, Mutetelenu Kakalama was born last into a family of four. Growing up a shy kid, she grew up thinking only her friends could do certain things and she always discredited herself. Little did this young lady know all she needed was a little push to come out of her shell.
Mutetelenu is currently a fourth-year student at the Zambia Catholic University studying Development Studies. She has been volunteering for the past six years and this path directed her to go with that degree. Starting out as a UNICEF Zambia Climate/HIV ambassador in 2010, the brilliant young lady fell in love with radio.
Entering the industry, Mutetelenu co-hosted a local radio show that was directly centered on advocacy for climate change and HIV and Aids. In 2011, the World Bank awarded her for the second best African photo story teller on Climate change. A year later she was given an opportunity to volunteer with grassroots soccer to fulfill her HIV advocacy mission.
Later that year, Mutetelenu along with five of her friends co-founded Agents of Change Foundation. Their focus was and still is to empower young people with radio and leadership skills and to date they have been successful. Despite running the foundation, Mutetelenu still finds time to volunteer with the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia and Global Platform Zambia where she seats on the Youth Board.
As if that is not enough, an initiative called Istand4her was birthed as a result of Mutetelenu’s passion for grooming and empowering the girl child and she has been giving it all her love and attention.
What was the drive for you to start doing voluntary work?
My drive has always been the notion of change. I am a thinker and so most times I always try to find solutions that I would want to see. When growing up I was always interested in media and sometimes I would pretend sitting on my bed and answering questions from an invisible interviewer.
In my last year at high school, I came across a UNICEF advertisement that was looking for children to apply. I did this and became a UNICEF child HIV/Climate ambassador. My drive for activism started from here because I was exposed to problems facing young people and how to address them. Then I decided to take the step and advocate for others who don’t have the voice to do so.Mutetelenu Kalama's drive for activism started from a UNICEF child HIV/Climate ambassador Click To Tweet
Can you share your experience with Istandup4her mentorship?
Growing up, l have always been passionate about the need for girls to be given the same life chances and opportunities as boys. The Istandup4her mentorship program came as a fulfillment of a need l felt was there. This is an initiative that I co-started with a friend of mine Niza Phiri. It is a program that mentors girls in different spheres of life with an emphasis on education and leadership.
We use basketball rules as a tool to train girls in leadership. We also connect them to lifetime mentors who willingly give their time to girls and act as guides. Our goal is empowerment and changing the mindset of girls. We’re showing them that they have what they need to achieve what they put their heart to.
Apart from that we also hold Girls Talks on diverse issues —these talks are facilitated by girls themselves. This initiative has created a great momentum for girls. I have experienced firsthand conversations with girls and got to understand the urgent need to inspire them. I am really amazed by the progress that we have seen. Through this initiative, girls are now growing up into responsible women who are taking on roles that they never thought they would, my relationship with this puts them at a comfortable space to talk freely.
You volunteer, you seat on the board of Global Platform and you are a Development Studies student! How do you manage to do all that at such a young age?
For me, l treat every work as part of my lifestyle. I believe in having fun while working, so this helps me to manage my time well. It also ensures that when planning for each activity, value for my time is the greatest factor. The fact that the course that I am studying compliments my volunteer work is my greatest blessing too. Sometimes it appears hard trying to manage my time with my many commitments in between school but in the end, it is determination.
Most of the time I move with books. There have been times when I have had to study for a test while on the bus and finished an assignment on the plane. There was this time I arrived back from a consignment at 1 am and went to write a test at 7 am. All in all, God just paves the way for me.
What does success look like to you?
For me, success is being able to achieve the targeted goals set for my life and ensuring that my work grows into something that will inspire others.
Success to me looks like a river that l am swimming in and I’m almost at its banks. For the journey to our success means flying on wings of giants.Radio is a very powerful tool that you can use to disseminate information Click To Tweet
How are the youth in Zambia responding to the radio and leadership workshops you do?
The youth in Zambia are responding to radio and leadership training positively and the momentum of discussions on radio has now been growing. Most of the time our Facebook page is filled with messages from young people across the country asking how they can be part of such a great initiative.
We have facilitated the need for young people to realise that radio is a very powerful tool that you can use to disseminate information. Through this, they can use their leadership skills to fully understand the environment around them and realise their full potential of achieving whatever they set their heart to.
Now some of the young people that we have been training are taking journalism seriously. They are going to school to study it, some are been offered jobs in the radio stations and are strong activists.
You co-founded Agents of Africa with 5 of your friends, how do you motivate and empower each other so that each person brings forth the best of their abilities to the projects.
Agents of Change Foundation has helped us to grow in many spheres of life. The fact is that we are all friends and over the years have come to know each other’s strengths and weakness. We are honest with each other to ensure that we deliver the best to the betterment of young people.
Appreciating and complimenting each other for a job well done keeps us going as it motivates us to deliver the best. And throughout we have continued to empower each other with the available opportunities.
Do you intend to take your projects international? If so how?
Yes we do intend to take these projects on an international scale because we believe that young people have similar needs.
We intend do to this with the right kind of connections and creating a good base for the projects to be relevant in those contexts.
What’s your favourite movie quote?
My favourite movie quote comes from The Lorax movie; “Only if someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better…..IT’S NOT”
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