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of their community. " One of my functions is to exert pressure on politicians, administrators, business leaders and well- wishers," explains Nkomeshya Mukamambo II, " so that my people get their fair share of the national cake." She has experience of community development issues from both sides, having formerly been both a deputy and a minister, so knows the right questions to ask: who will fix the road, when do we get more mattresses for the hospital - and so on. " The chiefs own the land, which make them obligatory go- betweens for state and investors," explains Doctor Manda, scholar and member of the Zambian House of Chiefs. " They also have a strong moral and ethical influence on their people, which can count heavily in the polls," he adds. " So any politician who wants to be elected needs to be conciliatory towards them." Some women chiefs bring business skills and strategies to their position. Her Royal Highness Chieftainess Chiawa, formerly both a secretary and teacher, has governed the Gova people on the Lower Zambezi for over 20 years. " Since I have held this position," she explains, " electricity has come to the villages and investors have followed." She lists the safari lodges that have opened in the area and the local jobs that they have created. For women like Chieftainess Chiawa, who owns a big farm near Lusaka, the responsibility has been liberating. Others however, surrounded by male councillors, controlled by their husbands and distrusted by local politicians, have only the semblance of power. Some even share their crown: Her Highness Be Diango, eighteenth chief of that name, shares responsibility for the Leya people in the Livingstone region with chief Mukuni. He runs political and economical affairs while she handles social issues, such as visits to the sick and the organisation of traditional feasts. He is paid by government; she is not. He travels; she stays in the village. " But I must beware," jokes Mukuni. " If I am a bad chief, she can poison me." It is clear, then, that there is still a way to go before men and women achieve parity. " Men are not prepared to offer us power on a silver plate, so we must help one another," suggests Chief Nkomeshya. " Personally I have engaged women as councillors and I militate for women to replace deceased male leaders," she adds. " I advise young chief women to put aside their shyness: men are waiting for a chance to catch We must encourage girls to take power and responsibility - be it chief, minister or even president 30 Travel Zambia November 2009

them out. We must encourage girls to take power and responsibility - be it chief, minister or even president. The world belongs to women." An optimistic claim, perhaps: in Zambia, women bosses remain a rare species indeed. But female liberation has its supporters - and cases of sexual discrimination now routinely make newspaper headlines. Politicians, meanwhile, realise that they need to keep the female electorate onside. Late president Levy Mwanawasa pledged that women would soon make up no less than 30% of government - a promise that is enshrined in law. Far from the capital, this news delights Chief Chanda Weyaya, who presides over ten forgotten villages at the end of a dusty track. At 83 years old, she has neither water nor electricity, but holds some invigorating opinions about the role of women. " Our traditions teach us that man is above us and that he must rule," she asserts. " But it is clear that we women are as wise as our husbands - and sometimes more so, once we get the opportunity to learn." A handkerchief of the Women's Movement is knotted on her head. " I never went to school," she adds, " but I know that it is through education that women will free themselves." When this grandmother arrived on the throne, the village school was on the verge of closing. Her Highness ensured not only that it survived, but also that girls were integrated into the classes. Just as with the Zambezi itself, it seems, many streams eventually make a river. Be Diango ( Aged 41 years old; chief of 110 villages in Leya region since 2000) " To be chief is to become the people's mother. Besides my three children, I have sheltered fi ve orphans. I have also founded an association that supports children, widows and single mothers." Chanda Weyaya ( Aged 85; chief of ten villages in Mungwi district since 1993) " Zambian society now allows more room to women, and I am glad of that. If, as chief, I can be an example for the young girls, so much the better." Nkomeshya Mukamambo II ( Chief of Soli people in Chongwe district since 1971) " When you educate a man, an individual is educated. When you educate a woman, you educate her children - and thus the nation." Chiawa ( Aged 59, Chief of the Gova people in Chiawa District since 1987) " I, who became chief very young, have known the anguish of having everything to learn: to negotiate, to convince, to uphold my rank, to avoid rash decisions and not to allow myself to be unsteadied." Waitwika ( Aged 69, Chief of the Namwanga people since 1999) " I must allow my subjects to be proud and live in peace. For them I have built this palace, which will last for generations. My countrymen have made the bricks and the government has given us money." WOMAN CHIEFS: IN THEIR OWN WORDS Heritage Opposite page from top: Nkomeshya Mukamambo II; Chieftainess Chiawa; Be Diango This page from top: Chanda Weyaya; Chief Waitwika addresses the next generation; Women perform the bulk of agricultural labour in rural Zambia November 2009 Travel Zambia 31