Vainess Phiri – Zambia

Vainess Phiri – Zambia

Date: May 29, 2012
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I am the coordinator at the Katete District Women Development Association. Here, we help women to know their rights, and advocate for them to take action in all ways that they are able. I believe in empowering women in Zambia, and I am not going to stop until I have done all that I believe I can do.

In many ways, I am under-educated formally, but in reality I have learned more through experience than you can learn in school. We have more than 80 women’s groups in our organization, and we all focus on different things. My job is to coordinate all of them. The organization has many programmes ranging from women’s economic empowerment to HIV and AIDS. Women have many problems, but we can come together and teach each other.

I first encountered Gender Links when I was asked to participate in a training in Katete by the local government representatives for the Gender Justice and Local Government Summit. I put together a presentation on our project to show case it. Through this, I realized how important it is to be able to speak well. In my job, I talk to a lot of women, and the local government and also to traditional leaders in our communities. I believe that talking to all of those people as a woman requires a lot of patience and hard work.

I really value the amount of information I acquired from the summit I attended. Similarly, I embrace the many people and perspectives I met at the platform. I realized there that when you tell people about what you are doing, there is more likely to be buy-in from it. Speaking and listening are the two most important skills I have learned, and would like to use widely in my work.

I believe that rural women need the most help, because they have less access to many services than those in town. Our organization has paralegals who are able to advise the women when they feel they need help, though I admit the system is not yet perfect. We still have a long way to go, but we have also come from far.

The women who I work have the greatest influence in my life. They make me think; we participate in activities together, and we motivate each other. Some of the women are very strong; we make each other strong. I have worked with these women since the 1990’s and together, we are moving from strength to strength. I believe that the greatest change I initiate in people around me is to tell them my own life story. I have no formal education, and I saw that there was a need for women to be economically empowered. I did not want to sit, I wanted to work. I believe that the more women are able to believe in their own abilities, the more they will be able to accomplish.

In the future, I hope that there will be no need for the work the Katete District Women Development does. I would like all women to be empowered. My plan is to keep going until I can see this through. We are working with traditional leaders, and it is very useful for us. In my opinion, we can accomplish a lot when traditional leaders are able to inform people correctly about gender when it comes to tradition. If traditions are changed, and people interpret them correctly, then women will not be abused.



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