Inonge Wina – Zambia

Inonge Wina – Zambia

Date: July 5, 2015
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For Inonge Wina, former MP for Nalolo, a rural village in remote western Zambia, the opportunity to join politics arose in 2001 when the women’s movement began aggressively looking for women to participate in decision- making.  At that time, she was the chairperson of the Non-Governmental Organisation Co-ordinating Committee (NGOCC), the umbrella organisation for civil society groups in Zambia including the WLG that sought out women to run for office.

“We were going round looking for women to stand for office, and people said ‘why don’t you do it yourself?’ And I thought well, why not? The time appeared right.”

Wina, a member of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), stood with the blessing of the party and of the women’s movement. But she was no stranger to politics having been surrounded by it for most of her life. The difference was that in the past, she stood in the shadow of others, mainly men.

She recalls that in 1991 when the now ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) was formed, she followed her late husband to the first convention. She was told on arrival that it would be “safer” for her to return home, because she might be imprisoned alongside her husband and there would be no one to take care of the family.

“It was not laid down as law, but there was this unspoken agreement that we have only one politician at a time in the house, because in case the other is caught up, there is always someone left to lead the family,” she says.

Wina also says that she did not have political ambitions at that time. “I was very involved in my social work with the women’s movement and the NGOs. I was also running the family business.”

But it was inevitable that Wina would turn to politics. Her mother, a village chief, was a political activist; two of her brothers were politicians and one was a member of parliament; and, her husband was a freedom fighter, as well as a minister in post- independence Zambia.

“I have been surrounded by politics. The transition from social work to politics is a natural progression for me, because in my work as a politician I bring to bear my knowledge and experience of the social ills of society and how they can be redressed.”

Still, Wina had to battle for her parliamentary seat. Her brother Kasuka Mutukwa had won the Nalolo seat in the 2001 elections, but left to become executive secretary of the SADC PF. As a woman fighting for a male stronghold she faced tough competition.

Educated in her native Western Province, Wina took a degree in sociology and history at the University of Zambia in 1974 and an associate degree in history and geology at the Santa Monica City College in California.

She worked as General-Secretary at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Lusaka from 1964 – 1966, and as a volunteer in the women’s movement from 1964 – 2003. She also sits on a plethora of boards including the Citizens Advice Bureau, National Economics Advisory Council, Refugee Services and the University Teaching Hospital and is the Trustee of the Zambia Association of Research and Development.

Wina heads the Zambia Women’s Parliamentarians Caucus, is the national branch chair of the SADC RWPC and is member of several committees in parliament dealing with education, science and technology, transport and communications, and the review of the Zambian Constitution. She became the Gender and Child Development Minister, due to her activism around gender justice.

The family motto – “that we might be of service” – is her inspiration as she juggles caring for four AIDS orphans whom she has adopted with a packed agenda of legislative reforms. Many of these are being pushed by the women’s movement to which she is so closely linked. These efforts are already paying dividends in laws passed and systems put in place for advancing gender equality.

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