We are off to Dipalata, a rural village community with a long history of partnership with Gonzaga — so no new blog posting. However, we are starting a new blog series, Humans of Zambezi, where we introduce you to some of the living saints making a difference in Zambia.
“Politics was in me.”
As a young woman in Lusaka, Zambia, in the early 1960s, Mama Josephine (Kakuhu Josephine Lipako) worked as a freedom fighter, running messages between leaders involved in the nation’s fight for independence from Great Britain. Working-class people were not allowed to congregate, so Josephine helped them organize.
After Zambia gained independence in 1964, the government offered to pay for Josephine’s training, and she chose secretarial school. She returned to her home in Zambezi and married. Her husband discouraged her political ambitions, but she persevered. “I was doing it even if he was against it,” she says. She worked as a secretary for the government and lobbied on issues such as immigration and women’s rights.
Few women were involved in politics, but that didn’t deter Josephine. “Whatever a man can do, I can do as a woman,” she says, her steely resolve undiminished at 69. It is not hard to see why Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kuanda, once called Josephine the “small Iron Lady.”
“I am very frank,” she said. “I stood for what I know is right.”
In 1987, she and her husband separated, largely because she wouldn’t give up her political work. She dedicated herself to organizing and leading women’s groups and raising her nine children.
These days, she tells young women to go to school. “When you are educated, you can do anything,” she says. “You must not confine yourself to just being in the kitchen.”
“I just want women to be self reliant. As women, we have to be self reliant. Time will come when you lose a husband. This is what I am encouraging as a woman.”