Samba Yonga: Working to document African women’s history

samba yonga
Samba Yonga: I am now more interested in communicating real impact Click To Tweet

Samba Yonga is a Media Communications specialist running her own firm Ku-atenga Media. A trained journalist, Samba initially worked with one of the daily papers but found the job extremely boring. She then joined a media company that worked in development communications, this opened up more opportunities in development communication role.

Samba also recently co-founded the Museum of Women’s History in Zambia with Cultural Specialist Mulenga Kapwepwe and eight other women in Zambia. The Museum of Women’s History in Zambia aims to highlight women’s role in the history of the country.

SLA contributor Kudakwashe Mulenga sat down with Samba Yonga to find out how she navigated her career to end up running her own businesses.


You took on several roles at a fairly young age, did you face any challenges?

I know the narrative of the ‘struggle of women’ is real —most people ask me how being a woman has impacted my work. I am aware that there are inequalities everywhere and work towards addressing them. In my case, I think I am very fortunate that women are encouraged to take on the work that I do. I have also been very lucky to be surrounded by people that encourage me and recognise my ability.

Samba Yonga: I think that women are encouraged to take on the work that I do Click To Tweet

We also live in an environment that is malleable, meaning you have to work around your situation. You have to create life hacks and develop market-creating skills for your business. On my end, we largely had to develop the market and I think it is the same with a lot of people in the creative/communications sector here in Zambia.

You are co-founder of the Museum of Women’s History in Zambia, tell us about that.

I co-founded the museum with a group of women who want to highlight the importance of women’s narrative in history. In the work I do I network with a lot of people and I took an interest in Zambian history. My work involved research to a great extent. And I would find intriguing stories about the past that I had never learnt in school even at college level.

Samba Yonga co-founded a museum to show the importance of women in Zambia's history Click To Tweet

I then found a lot of things that were not in the mainstream narrative and that I felt should be known by all. As I researched more I found more and more interesting information. I met and listened to experienced cultural actors such as Mulenga Kapwepwe. I followed her work and also collaborated with historians such as Marja Hinfelaar, she was responsible for digitizing the National Archives of Zambia.

Last year, I undertook a research in collaboration with a Swedish organization on these buried narratives. We met with communities who confirmed narratives of women having an active role in Zambia’s history but not being documented.

One of my favourite ones is of the Mukuni Kingdom in which there is actually a dual leadership. Bedyango, as confirmed by Chief Mukuni was the Matriarch of the kingdom. Mukuni was a wandering ruler of the north who was strong and mighty. Bedyango realized that this was a threat to her kingdom and she offered a dual leadership instead.

However, when the colonial authorities arrived they refused to recognize the woman as a leader and that is how Chief Mukuni became the more prominent leader. This information was never documented and many people don’t know about it though the dual leadership is still practiced today. This showed me how we are not using our own information to strengthen our communities. This is the concept for the museum.

Samba Yonga: We are not using our own information to strengthen our communities Click To Tweet

How has the reception been so far?

The reception has been really good and we didn’t expect it. We just opened our virtual space and so many people have reached out with resources including stories and collections.

A lot of history in Zambia is oral and the establishment of the museum has encouraged people to contribute. Our main goal is to get this information into the curriculum and make it part of mainstream knowledge.

Who in your museum do you think every African should know?

Immediately it is Bedyango the custodian and Matriarch of the Gundu kingdom, which is now Mukuni Village. She is a modern day example of a feminist. Bedyango is an example of someone who was able to stand for justice and used proven methods of leadership that progressed her kingdom. There is no other person who is a great example.

Another notable one is Mumbi of the Shila people and she was responsible for the protection of the now Bemba people. Mumbi played the role of what could now be referred to as a modern-day diplomat.

There are many examples and these show a very different perspective of women. Our history has obscured such figures and has limited the positions and roles that women played. We would like women and girls today to realize their own capabilities to achieve their dreams from the women of the past.

Our history has obscured such remarkable women - Samba Yonga Click To Tweet

Let us talk about your other baby Ku-atenga media, what does it do?

Ku-atenga is primarily a communications consultancy. I have a background in communications both corporate and development. These unique skills allowed me to have a good understanding of what communication entails and what responses work for Africa. We combine these skills to create communications packages for Africans. Now there is huge interest from outside Zambia and Africa for African content.

We design communication tools and content for different organizations at Ku-atenga. We have done work with varied local and international organizations. And more recently we are getting involved in doing more transformative communications that would effect change. I am now more interested in communicating real impact rather than organizational messaging. The idea is to create or design communication as a direct response to these facts and numbers.

Ku-atenga and the museum are seemingly different in purpose, how do you constantly draw inspiration for both of these projects?

They might seem different but they actually intertwine a lot. For example, the problem of girls not staying in school is a structural problem but it is also largely societal. It can be traced back to the norms of a society.

If we research a bit on a culture we will note that some of these norms didn’t previously exist and there can be ways to unlearn certain things. So this feeds back into the museum’s objectives of understanding new ways of cultural communication. Now you see, the two projects are related.

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions you’d like to share?

In 2017, the main focus is the museum. We would like to have the physical museum later in the year and have a physical space for people to go to. But there are a lot of other fun communications and content production projects in the pipeline too.

By the way, I do not do resolutions simply because I am not a planner in that sense. I just simply get on with it. I act on prompting and that’s how I have always operated.


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5 Zambian women doing amazing work that Linton couldn’t be bothered to

Unless you have made a vow to stay off of social media and the news, you’ve surely come across of the hashtag #LintonLies. #LintonLies trended for a few days last month after actress and producer Louise Linton wrote her “How My Dream Gap Year in Africa Turned Into a Nightmare” piece. It was a recent addition to the White Savior trope and was filled with so much inaccuracies about Zambia that African twitter had to say something. The hashtag #LintonLies was created in response and forced Linton to remove her book from Amazon.

While Louise was clawing her way through the jungle and chasing off humongous spiders in her mind, she could have simply picked up her cell phone and asked Zambian women to help her tell the real story. Write it, film it, market it. The reality though is that Zambian women aren’t waiting for their stories to be told for them to be deemed worthy. They have charge and are doing a darn good job of it. Even though more can be done to improve the lives of women in Zambia ( that’s another discussion for another day) those who stand up and make a change should be applauded.

Here is a list of Zambian women that are engaging in entrepreneurial bombassery that likes of Linton could learn from. Zambian women aren’t known to simply sit and let things happen, they are the women that are running businesses and changing the entrepreneurial landscape of the country. samba-yonga

Samba Yonga

Founder of communications powerhouse Kuatenga media, Samba is a media communications specialist whose work has showcased Zambia to the world on various platforms, local and international.

Kuatenga’s latest work is The Tikambe Natulande TV show , a youth-led program focusing on issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Zambia. The Tikambe Natulande show focuses on educating young Zambians without losing them, showcasing stories they can relate to and answering even the most embarrassing questions. Questions like:

“What would you do if your religious leader asked you to sleep with him to solve a problem?”

Known for her great style and her deep laugh, Samba is passionate about unearthing authentic Zambian stories. She does not shy away from stories no matter how uncomfortable. Samba also challenges challenging harmful beliefs and narratives respectfully while delving into preserving our languages and cultures. Quite a feat!

If you are ever in Lusaka and hear of a cool cultural event, Samba has probably worked tirelessly behind the scenes. Yet she may also just be the lady at the market next to you buying finkubala.

monica_musonda

Monica Musonda

Queen of entrepreneurship bombassery. This woman is revolutionizing the way young Zambians eat (cue the satisfied rumble of the stomachs of university students). She is the founder of Java foods whose main goal is to provide convenient, affordable and nutritious foods made from local products. This successful commercial lawyer set up the food processing company in Zambia in 2012. Since then, Monica has been pretty transparent about what it takes to be an entrepreneur on the Zambian scene. She is also open about leadership issues and often hands out solid advice.

Monica and Java foods are all about churning out nutritional foods that tackle the problem of malnutrition in countries like Zambia (by producing a nutritious porridge consisting of sorghum, millet and soya, for example). Java foods engages with small-scale farmers to provide them with grains through a self-sustainable system.

Monica encourages young women entrepreneurs to not be afraid of starting their journey. Do you have an idea? Get started, and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.

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MaFashio

Sekayi and Tukiya are two stylish entrepreneurs from Zambia, styling and profiling with their blog MaFashio. The sisters are very popular and are good at putting together great outfits, interestingly enough via thrifting. Instead of making style out of reach by only wearing designer things that a young Zambian girl may likely not be able to afford, MaFashio show that thrifting is a great source of pieces waiting to be handpicked.

They began with simple street style, but these two have fast become the go to for styling, makeup artistry and photography. They have also being a part of great social initiatives and looked good while doing it.

From styling the techie guys at Tech Hub Bongo Hive, to sitting in at Zambia Fashion week, the MaFashio brand is growing. MaFashio showcases great Zambian talent but staying true to the reality of living in Lusaka. Now, Sekayi and Tukiya are not fashion airheads who only live and breath fashion. They are young women who are working on various projects behind the scenes (like finishing uni amongst other things. Congratulations!)

cathy phiri

Cathy Phiri

If you scrambled to get the newest issue of Trendsetters when you were in high school in Zambia, then you probably know who Cathy Phiri is (especially if you also wore that sky blue and navy blue skirt daily to school, you know which one, Roma stand up!). Cathy Phiri has been in the Zambian media game for a long time, starting in 1995 when she and her sisters started up a non-governmental organization in Zambia called Youth Media which led to to the development of the award-winning newspaper (later magazine), Trendsetters.

After years in the business, winning awards and working as Media 365 (the company at which she is managing director) Cathy has a new show called HerStory. HerStory helps Zambians look at various issues from different angles. Media 365 is a dynamic creative and communications agency that focuses on communication strategies, audio-visual campaigns, marketing, and research services for social change and development.

Cathy has focused on educating the masses on HIV/AIDS but with HerStory she is diversifying. Now she’s diving into discussing the political situation in Zambia, the Blesser/Blessee phenomenon amongst other stories. The premise is that Zambian women can and will weigh in on what is happening in their society fearlessly.

Having been a part of popular shows like the MTV show Shuga (remember when Lupita was on Shuga?) where she was executive producer, Cathy’s evolution can be traced from each project she has worked on. She just keeps getting better! Cathy has long had a passion for this kind of work and gone at it silently. She usually pleasantly surprises us with her highly enjoyable work, which is always above par in Africa.

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Chisenga Muyoya

Now, Chisenga is not playing around with IT. Mmhhmm, no sir she is not. Founder of Asikana Network (cue song, sisters doing it for themselves), Chisenga works hard on to teach young women the power of technology. Asikana Network also aims to increase interest in and to enhance the active participation of women in the ICT sector. They want to change mindsets and eliminate negative stereotypes attached to girls and women in ICT. Imagine a virtual reality game made by an African girl with an amazing story? I can!

Amongst other important things, like being a global shaper and consulting at the leading Zambian tech hub called Bongo Hive, Chisenga is on the ground teaching and equipping young entrepreneurs on the ins and outs of technology. By doing so, she ensures that young Zambians aren’t left behind.

Chisenga just keeps on learning and growing. She is open about her education, courses she is taking and workshops she has facilitated. She  inspires young Zambian women to enter and be a part of the technological changes happening the world over.

this_whitneyNow, these women I have mentioned are only a sprinkling of the women entrepreneurs making waves in Zambia. From Towani Clarke, Chizo, Zed Girl, NouKoncept, Cathy Funda Funda, Joanna Hickey, Mukuka Mayuka, Lulu Wood…the list goes on.

Its unfortunate about #LintonLies, but lets not dwell on the web of lies that she weaved (hope you do better Louise!). Instead, lets celebrate the work Zambian women are doing, the work many before them have done, and those yet to join the race.

Zambian women, we salute you!