Joyce Sakala – Zambia

Joyce Sakala – Zambia

Date: June 7, 2012
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Joyce Sakala, Chairperson of Chongwe Council, says that when she was the only woman in council the men would victimise her and push her left right and centre. Fortunately, she stood her ground and now, in her second term, she is the Chairperson of council. She says that the challenges are always greater in the first term of office when you don’t know what the rules of the council are or what your functions are. This is where the support from civil society is so important. She cited examples such as the Zambian Women’s Lobby and WLSA who can offer this support. She does warn, however, that in order to stand for a second term, you have to prove to the community that you can do your job well. Women need to start improving their political influence and they should start campaigning early and lobby for support.

Councillor Sakala is one of the few women councillors who has managed to break through the male dominated councils to become a Council Chairperson (equivalent to Mayor at the district level). But a year after this appointment, the sign on her office door still reads “Council Chairman.” This is just one example of how institutions perpetuate stereotypes that women are trying hard to challenge.

Joyce Sakala from Chongwe became interested in politics when she was with her late husband, who was a politician during Kenneth Kaunda’s presidency. She travelled with him everywhere, and slowly she became interested in politics. Eventually, she became one of the founding members of the MMD in the Lusaka West. It was this experience, she believes, that caused the National Party (NP) (one of the first breakaway opposition parties, which broke away from the MMD) to approach her in 2001 to stand as a local councillor. Despite doing very little campaigning she managed win standing against four men.

At the Chongwe council, various trainings have been offered. To begin with, there is an in-house orientation workshop which is organised by the council, with facilitators either from the council itself or from the local government training institute. The purpose of this training is to orient the councillors on their roles and functions as councillors. A recent workshop focused on mainstreaming HIV and AIDS in council work. Councillor Sakala believes that this educative workshop was particularly helpful for first time councillors because it provided information on how they can start to address HIV and AIDS in their respective communities. “As civic leaders we are also expected to stand up and deal with this issue, and work together with various community organisations.”

Joyce Sakala identified education as a key issue in her community. The poor performance of learners because of a shortage of teachers in the rural school remains a priority. Lack of accommodation was traced as the cause. “Teachers are posted, but they don’t have anywhere to stay, so when children perform poorly because there are no teachers it’s not the lack of teachers that is the problem, it’s the lack of teacher accommodation that is the problem,” she said. They have since commenced laying the foundation for the five-roomed house using the Ward Development Fund.

Gender training and capacity building have been virtually non-existent in the community, and this has been identified as a gap. Where this happens, it appears to be quite ad hoc. At the time of her interview for this study, Councillor Sakala had just returned from a gender budgeting and planning workshop convened by the Eastern and Southern African Management Institute. She was, however, the only councillor that had been invited to workshop which was intended for provincial planners.

Sakala said that the workshop led to the launch of a national gender budgeting programme which she believes will help to start changing things once it becomes policy. She hopes that they will cascade the workshops down to the council level, “so that people can come to understand how gender issues are supposed to be addressed.” She says that there has not been very much training on gender issues, adding “they come and give some training but it’s not done in detail, it just scratches the surface.”



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