Humans of Zambezi

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.

Mama Josephine

“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.”

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5 Responses to Humans of Zambezi

  1. KP says:

    Love this hardworking, resilient mama so much. One time she told me I had “nice, strong shoes” and it was the best compliment I’ve ever received. Give her my love and my yililililililililis.

  2. Jennifer Akins says:

    Opening this up and finding Josephine looking back at me just made my day! Ditto Katie’s yilililililili! Sending all of my love to you Mma!

  3. Claudia Bisso-Fetzer says:

    Thank you for letting us know about Mama Josephine. A strong women who believed in herself and made a positive difference in her community and beyond. She’s a living example of change for her community, for us. Thank you and hello Mama Josephine!

  4. Anna Fox says:

    Morgan- Thank you for sharing those honest words! I still feel so blessed to have experienced part of my last year with you in such a meaningful way so thank you for continuing to pick yourself up and for sharing your struggles and victories with the mules! Continue to let your heart shine out there.

    Sooyoun- I love the name sun for you I think it is beyond fitting. Your words really touched my heart this morning. Through everything, you are simply and wonderfully you and I am always in awe of that person. I can just imagine your sweet smile and strong embrace that you are probably sharing everywhere you go. Zambezi is so blessed to have a woman like you. I hope you never forget how loved you are.

  5. Dr. Dale Abendroth, Gonzaga-in-Zambezi Co-Leader 2010 says:

    What a wonderful idea to include stories in the blog focused on the “saints” of Zambezi…and to begin with Mama Josephine. I was humbled by her strength, resilience and compassion for women during my 2010 Zambezi experience.

    Really, imagine the resistance–perhaps even danger–she faced in the 1960s being a woman with a voice–a strong voice. Mama Josephine personifies what I heard Rep. John Lewis say in his commencement address this week at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts,
    “Go out there,
    get in the way,
    get in trouble–good trouble, necessary trouble,
    and make some noise.”

    Please extend a big hello to Mama J…the ultimate small Iron Lady.

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