Authors Posts by Theresa Lungu

Theresa Lungu

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Theresa Lungu is founder of Books for Zambia, www.Booksforzambia.com. Born and raised in Luanshya, Zambia, Theresa has seen and felt the acute need for enhanced early childhood education in Zambia. She started Books For Zambia in 2003 to save Luanshya Library from the verge of closure. A graduate of Boston College, she now lives in Massachusetts and works at Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child. Theresa is also the author of ‘Twilight In The Morning’ and is looking to publish her second novel, 'Torment of an Angel' in the near future.

By Theresa Lungu

Theresa Lungu
Theresa Lungu

“Africa, our Mother Africa, must be free, and it has fallen to our lot to free this part. Be of good cheer, we are just beginning.” – Dr. Kenneth Kaunda

This October Zambians all across the world are holding lavish parties in jubilation of 50 years of independence from British tyranny.
While the jubilee parties heat up, anger simmers particularly in Zambian diaspora who cite mismanagement of Zambia perhaps to justify and validate their reasons for leaving the country. Quite frankly, Zambian diaspora has no right to be angry about Zambia’s failures. We gave up that right when we ‘escaped’ Zambia’s dilemmas and opted to put our skills and manpower behind other countries. Zambians who genuinely care about the development of the country live in Zambia. They are the ones being innovative and starting companies that employ and empower other Zambians. They are not in diaspora deconstructing the country with empty words on meaningless blogs under stupid pseudonyms. Unless you are making efforts at bettering Zambia, it is futile and hypocritical to keep blaming those who are trying. Mudslinging only dirties hands and little else.

Last December, I visited my parents in Luanshya and my father and I went on a long freedom walk from the town center to the township of Mikomfwa where I grew up. Our walk took us through a desolate compound of one room dwellings clustered around communal bathrooms called ku Nkungulume (for bachelors), aptly named since establishment by the British as a settlement for unmarried young men. Although the name remains, the compound now houses families. My father has memories of his residency there and he pointed out some of his old hangout places. One of the bars is named Biyaolo, obviously from the western term, ‘Beer Hall’. Our walk ended back in town at the civic center. The Mayor at the time was a 30 year old man who had brought positive changes to the council. The building was clean, the staff courteous and knowledgeable and a robust PR team produces a newsletter updating the public on current affairs. The team work at the council has results, Government recognized the council’s efforts and awarded it the only corruption-free city council in Zambia. I am positive ku Nkungulume will one day have indoor plumbing because Luanshya is making steps toward bettering itself as a community. The town Library is another example of self- improvement in Luanshya. As a native of Luanshya, I started a campaign 10 years ago, through the Books for Zambia Project to equip the library with books. Luanshya library is thriving and the city council is at the center of maintaining the library.

We have to recognize and acknowledge fruit bearing efforts by Zambians. We could collectively as a people, work on figuring out the best practices for Zambia instead of photocopying what western countries are doing. What works for London does not necessarily work for Lusaka because we have different needs; culturally, traditionally, economically etcetera. Basically, we’ve only been in civilized society under our own rule for a measly 50 years. We have much to learn. HH, Mumba, Chipimo, Kambwili, RB or whoever else is aspiring to be the next President of Zambia will not salvage Zambia on their own. They may have leadership qualities but without proper policy formulation and implementation in tandem with skilled advisors and cooperation from citizens, nothing will change. I witnessed blatant leadership failure and selfishness in my position as personal assistant to one of the top directors at the Ministry of Science and Technology some years back. At the time the ministry was in charge of funding all the Trades Training Schools including Evelyn Hone College. The funds were rarely disbursed to the colleges wholly or promptly. I know this for a fact because I was in charge of typing up the budgets. Every time the funding came in, directors would convene unnecessary seminars in Siavonga and I mean unnecessary because I attended a couple of them myself and I had no idea why we were there until the per diem allowances came in! A certain director openly used government personnel, vehicles, gas, and office supplies to establish his own college in Northern Province. All the employees knew the stealing was going on but no one spoke up. I was disgusted with what I witnessed but I was green and straight out of Luanshya trades training school and still dizzy from two years of consuming beans and cabbage at the dining hall. In a case like this do you sit there and insult the President of the country or the specific people at the ministry? Kleptomaniac behavior and vandalism is prevalent at all levels of society but it is generally left unchecked or frowned upon. Growing up we had a neighbor who worked at a local clinic and her house was basically a dispensary. I thought she was a kind lady because my mother would send me over to her house for painkillers and she dispensed of them generously until one day there were no painkillers left at the clinic, then we all became exasperated and cursed the government for failing at their job. What about our duty to the communities we live in?

Lack of community engagement is debilitating to the country. I have seen some rural settlements waiting on government to come and replace a roof on a school because their children can’t learn in inclement weather. Are we honestly that bereft of initiative? A good parent will patch up the roof so their child can continue learning. Yes, it is government’s duty to provide education, but remember in the beginning schools were not started by government. Schools were started by individuals who knew the value of education. Before colonialists came to Zambia, missionaries were there first bringing with them education and modern medicine. Many missionary schools and hospitals still standing in Zambia were built by Zambian hands without modern machinery and no government assistance to rely on.

In retrospect, we can trash every incumbent government and hold tribunals and embark on witch hunts all day long but words alone will never bring about the positive changes we long to see and need in our communities. The change we need is within and through ourselves. Luanshya City Council is a good example. Building strong communities is not achieved through words, it is through action and collective organization and engagement. Change in attitude about the way we perceive ourselves and our abilities, self- esteem, confidence and treasuring and protecting our resources could help propel us into a self-sustaining nation. For instance instead of evacuating to South Africa for good healthcare, perhaps we could invite South African officials to Zambia for some lessons in healthcare management, same with our schools and universities. University of Zambia is like a warzone at any given time, one wonders about the caliber of graduates coming out of there when the institution is more famous for its riotous tradition than its academic prowess.

Change can be dispensing of our third world mindset of living in the moment and not planning for tomorrow. A better tomorrow can begin with curbing the senseless plunder of public resources and installing early childhood intervention programs so that the coming generations will have better mindsets that will help stamp out intergenerational poverty and dependency syndrome. We have the tools, we can stop the war within ourselves and get to work. The last 50 years is done, we can’t go back and change the blunders and learning curves we have endured as a new nation but the next 50 years is in our hands to shape and mold. Are we going to stand together and fight for a better Zambia as one, or are we going to continue to stand divided and vie for position and status instead of improved living conditions for all?

 

By Theresa Lungu

Theresa Lungu
Theresa Lungu

A young mother flees her home in the middle of the night, her body bleeding and injured, her self-esteem bruised, her dignity in tatters. She staggers into the emergency room of her local hospital, relieved that she will finally get help for her physical pain. She holds a piece of chitenge to her cheek, catching the blood from a gush left there by her rampaging husband.The wound in her face needs sutures, her broken arm needs binding and she could use an ice pack on a rapidly swelling black eye. When her turn comes, the nurse on duty refuses to attend to her because she has no police report. A piece of paper takes precedence over her life. She has just been victimized again, twice beaten.

The above is not fiction, this scene is being played out in numerous clinics and hospitals across Zambia. Undeniably, there is great need to report domestic violence to the police but an injured person needs access to medical treatment first, the paperwork can come later. In medical ethics, a practitioner should act in the best interest of the patient, beneficence.

The issue of domestic violence in Zambia is a long, twisted, abyss that nobody has fully delved into. There are different facets to it, some of which have been tackled but the bigger picture is gleam. Years back, Victim Support Units were set up to deal with the scourge but after that there was no follow up.

The majority of victims end up back in the homes of their abusers and the cycle continues.To victims, a hospital should be the first line of defense, a place for comfort where the abuser can’t reach them for a few hours.A place to catch their breath and ponder the next step. Some individuals, for reasons best known to themselves, do not wish to press charges on their spouses and or partners but that should not disqualify them from medical treatment. This is a moral issue that Zambia needs to deal with fast, now.

Domestic violence is a problem all over the world but civilized nations treat victims first before worrying about police reports. Zambia is lagging and in the process violating human rights.

The time is now to start advocating for victims of domestic violence to receive medical treatment first before obtaining a police report. If police reports mean so much to hospitals, a solution could be to have a social worker on staff to file reports.

Trainee constables could also be stationed at hospitals solely for that purpose. What is not a solution in curbing domestic violence is refusing victims treatment. Please, spread the word, write the appropriate authorities in Zambia. It’s time to do away with this great injustice.

By Theresa Lungu

Theresa Lungu
Theresa Lungu
When I left Zambia for the US over a decade ago, I was so relieved to get out. I was confident America would be beautiful and perfect. However, in this great nation, full of wonder and opportunity, I have also encountered illiterates, cockroaches, mice, poverty, liars, unemployment, you name it. Ultimately, what has stuck with me is the commitment and loyalty of Americans to their country.

A commitment and loyalty that Zambians don’t have for Zambia. The solution many Zambians have for Zambia’s woes is to abandon everything Zambian and throw stones at the country.
The true heroes of our country are the Zambians who have stuck it out at home striving to live decent lives and raise families under challenging conditions. The rest of us ran away when the going got tough and we have absolutely no right to throw stones at Zambia.

We are in Diaspora enjoying other people’s hard work. Perhaps we should have stayed in Zambia and worked hard to improve our communities and made Zambia into an admirable place. If you have done something for Zambia, given back in any little way, then be the first one to cast that stone and condemn Zambia. However, if you are just a keyboard critic enjoying someone’s else’s labors in Diaspora, then you are ignorant and don’t understand what it takes to build a strong, prosperous nation. Hail to all Zambians still in Zambia. Doctors and nurses working in outdated hospitals; lawyers operating in makeshift offices; teachers in rundown schools; and everyone else who hold the country up and keep it together for the rest of us.

It is wrong to ignore the many Zambians who are helping Zambia and solely concentrate on pointing out what is wrong with Zambia. We have to stand with those at home that are trying to improve the country. Obviously they don’t have all the answers and resources and it is up to those of us who are enlightened and educated and have had the opportunity to live in development countries to impart this knowledge.

For the last ten years, I have worked with Luanshya City Council on the project I founded, Books For Zambia. I started the project when I found out that the Library in Luanshya, my hometown, was nothing more than a shell with no books or furniture. It could have been very easy for me to condemn the government and turn my back, after all my local library in America was well equipped! However, I partnered with the Luanshya City Council and organized resources for them to receive books from donors in the US and other countries.

I also had extensive conversations with the librarian about the importance of keeping books in the library for the entire community to use. Today, the Helen Kaunda Memorial Library is thriving and has undergone renovations to include a children’s section.

Furthermore, Luanshya City Council has taken it upon themselves to plan for the opening of a new library branch in Mpatamato. I look forward to seeing a section in the library with books by Zambians for Zambians.

Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of the many pitfalls and shortfalls of government but as citizens we ought to be fully aware of our own role in improving our communities and turning Zambia into the country we want it to be. The attitude of letting government initiate everything while we sit on the sidelines and hail insults is never going to put doctors and medicines in our hospitals, it is never going to improve our infrastructure, it is never going to stop the brain drain and all the other ills that we see and loathe in Zambia. Proactive is what we need to be.
If we all could love Zambia with all its ugliness and mediocrity, just a little, then we can start seeing the beauty and the warmth and the potential that Zambia is so full of. We must, and I insist never give up on Zambia.

By Theresa Lungu

Theresa Lungu
Theresa Lungu

I was rather startled by a recent video report by Muvi TV. Their reporter, Mwaka Namfukwe was in Kantolomba Township in Ndola covering a story she titled, Some Civic Leaders in Ndola’s Kantolomba Township have resolved to start arresting women they find patronizing bars.

Here is her opening statement;

“Kantolomba is one township in Ndola where you find children playing all over the place, doesn’t matter what games or whatever the time, most of them are reportedly malnourished because their mothers spent much time patronizing bars so cannot cook proper food for their children”.

After hearing Namfukwe’s statement I was left with the belief that Kantolomba is populated by reckless, beer guzzling, self inseminating women who have single handedly let their children go unfed and uneducated.
In concluding her report, shot among dancing women of Kantolomba holding plates of food,(wait, I thought she had reported earlier that these women don’t cook!), Namfukwe triumphantly stated that, women are engineers of development in the home, community and the nation in general. If indeed, Namfukwe believes that women are solely in charge of this gargantuan task, why didn’t she stand up in Kantolomba and challenge the actions of the men there? How do you expect women to solely carry the burdens of society without responsible, supportive men to work with?

Four women appeared on camera and testified that they were driven to drinking to drown the sorrows of poverty and abusive, philandering husbands. There were no men interviewed in the report which compounded my belief that Kantolomba is the first Zambian all women township. The only man in the report was the sexist civic leader (his name was not disclosed in the report) who has instructed bar owners in the area to refuse admittance to women. Essentially, he has declared that it is a constitutional right for men to drink and neglect their children but God forbid if women emulate them.

Most disturbing in this report was the inability of the Kantolomba women to give any responsibility to their husbands. None of them stated that their husbands should be banned from the bars as well.
Coming back to the reporter, I was left with the opinion that either Namfukwe doesn’t have a handle on women’s advancement or she is not a good investigative reporter. Reporters should not just chant catchy phrases, they ought to understand what they are reporting and give viewers or listeners clear and balanced news.

In hindsight, I don’t blame Namfukwe, after all she works for a station whose most popular show is Ready For Marriage, a spectacle that endeavors to mold ‘wayward’ women into wives. This show is developed and produced by a man who obviously doesn’t have very high expectations of women. Among other domestic chores that supposedly make a good wife, contestants of the show are tested on bed-making and dish-washing. The last time I checked, marriage constituted two people. So why is Muvi TV only schooling one half of the union? The sad part of this show is that the contestants are very happy to be on it and don’t seem to have any foresight on whether whomever they are getting ready to marry will be equally ready.

It seems Muvi TV has blinded itself to the fact that more and more husbands are becoming dependent on a second income, the wife’s! I bet an ideal Zambian marriage is one in which the wife has a job outside the home, contributes financially to the home and comes home at the end of the day to engineer development in the home, community and the nation in general while the husband hangs out at a bar eating imichopo and entertaining girlfriends.

Heck, we are a nation that flaunts the notion that ubuchende bwamwaume tabutoba inganda (a man’s infidelity does not break a home). How steadfast will a home be when infidelity brings in AIDS, emotional and financial distress not to mention malnourished children?

Since the first Women’s Suffrage Movement in the 19th century, women around the world have continued to progress and get their men to respect them, except in Zambia where women still accept to be second class citizens. As the saying goes, you will be treated the way you allow to be treated.

Clearly, some of our mothers and sisters do not know any better and they are teaching their daughters what they know; to be ill-treated and disrespected by their men and consider it perfectly normal. The one responsibility I would give to Zambian women is to strive to empower themselves and allow to be treated with respect and love and ultimately will we move forward as a people.

If our minds are stuck in the 12th Century, the country’s development will remain superficial. It is the third world mentality in Zambian minds that relegate the country to that status and not the country’s geographical location. We ought to be aware of what that means.

Muvi TV is in a powerful position of reaching Zambians all across the country and as such must help Zambia grow by truly empowering women not beheading them. Their show, Ready for Marriage, must include men who should be readied for marriage as well. Otherwise they should rename their show, Ready for Disaster.

Related other websites Links

By Theresa Lungu

Theresa Lungu

Last week I wrote the article, The Immorality of Convicting Iris Kaingu. I was struck by the polarized views the article invoked in bloggers. Despite well-crafted insults directed at me from some bloggers, I was encouraged that for the most part readers mounted a stand on the topic, argued it constructively and offered solutions. To add on, I would suggest that the Judicial system quit wasting time and money on those ridiculous blonde wigs from the English medieval days that they keep clinging to and get going with constituting new statutes to accommodate effective prosecution of emerging crimes brought on by technology.

Well, since there hasn’t been any new sex scandals to write about, I will just go back to writing about the mundane, the everyday norms that we sigh at but deem too complicated or confusing to tackle. I am contemplating a few topics, such as why the opposition MPs are allowed to flee Parliament whenever they lack plausible contributions or the appointment of Willie Nsanda as head honcho at RDA or perhaps try to guess who the next person President Sata will send into retirement…Ok, I just dropped the latter because honestly I don’t think President Sata himself knows whom he is going to send into retirement on any given day. The man is just spontaneous! I better leave this topic alone before I get a call from Winter Kabimba threatening to shut me down. He may be brushing off his own blonde wig since he is now the Justice Minister. At least we now know what his position in the Patriotic Front Government is. Before, he was just the annoying hanger-on stepping on everyone’s toes and drawing blood.

Speaking of accepted norms from the dark ages, the other day I was watching a news video clip shot in one of the emerging compounds near Chilenje in Lusaka, Mapoloti to be exact. There, over 200 families have set up homes sans bathrooms. They have built their ‘dream homes’ with no regard to indoor plumbing and have now resorted to defecating in plastic bags or the nearby bushes. Then the residents dared go on camera to lament the lack of toilets and Government’s indifference towards their plight. I was very irritated by this particular group of people who think they can just go and settle on piece of land with no planning and then turn around and blame government. People, bush pooping is totally unacceptable! Not only is it stinky but grossly unhealthy too. Mapoloti is full of unemployed young men who stood in front of the camera that day bad mouthing the government. You know what boys? Dig yourselves pit latrines and use the bush to grow some food, how about that reversal of fortunes? Ask the government for some grain and fertilizer. Scratch that, you have already fertilized the ground, just ask for some grain and perhaps a Mill because Guy Scott is never coming to your house to fit it with porcelain toilets and bidets.

Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of the many shortfalls of government but as citizens we ought to be fully aware of our own role in improving our communities and turning Zambia into the country we want it to be. The attitude of letting government initiate everything while we sit on the sidelines and hail insults (Zambians lead the world in insults), is never going to put doctors and medicines in our hospitals, it is never going to improve our infrastructure, it is never going to stop the brain drain and all the other wrongs that we see in Zambia. Mapoloti residents are just one example of how we disempower ourselves then turn around and look for someone to blame.

In the colonial days, civil servants took and misused BOMA resources to spite Roy Welensky and his cronies. The only problem is, the BOMA is long gone, we just celebrated Zambia’s 48th Independence anniversary last week. Nonetheless, the culture of ripping off the BOMA is still alive. Austin Liato can attest to this. Hospital workers take linen and medicines, other civil servants misuse office funds and resources and that sort of thing. I remember having a relative in the civil service. He brought home all sorts of things from his office. Typewriters, stationery, even chairs. He always said that those things were for the BOMA and we should all enjoy them.

After misusing public resources we resort to posting notices such as the one found at UTH outpatients department: Kindly take note that members of staff at UTH work under very strenuous and demanding conditions due to the increase in the disease burden and critical shortages of manpower. Patients and relatives seeking medical attention at UTH should therefore be mindful that it may take a bit of time for them to be seen by our medical personnel. Assaulting any member of staff is a criminal offence and offenders will be arrested and prosecuted. Thank you – UTH Management

While Zambia has evolved nicely into the 21st Century with smartphones, satellite TV, Japanese cars and shopping malls, a part of our culture is steeped in the dark ages. I bet some of you are getting ready to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day right there in Lusaka! Go figure.

Iris Kaingu enters Lusaka Central Prison pending sentence on Thursday, 25th.

By Theresa Lungu

Theresa Lungu

The picture of Iris Kaingu entering Lusaka Central Prison, her head bowed in shame, her young face marred with worry is a testimony of Zambia’s twisted and incompetent justice system. Thankfully her bright yellow blouse throws an aura of hope around her.  In a short space of time she has gone from a carefree college student to a convicted criminal.  Her crime? She and her boyfriend took videos of themselves having consensual sex in the privacy of their room.

Iris is 21 years old, technically an adult and yet still so young and impressionable.  I am sure many of us recall our college days, drinking, illicit sex and other unsavory activities that as terrible as they maybe, are the right of passage for young people.  At the same time it is not all college students who are mischievous, many are on the straight and narrow, basically just studying and missing all the fun! Ok, the point I am trying to make is youthful offenders such as Iris must be given a chance to redeem themselves and not be sent to prison. As a matter of fact  I wouldn’t call Iris’s deed a crime, I view it as an error in judgment. I am sure Iris rues setting up that video camera.  What good is Iris’s imprisonment going to do for her life?  She has already been slandered and paraded on television and in newspapers as the shame of the nation.  Her future is uncertain and potentially ruined because the justice system and public opinion has rendered her a criminal.

I keep imagining the Judge in the case sitting down and watching the video as evidence.   Did he honestly think two young people having sex was bad for the development and moral fabric of Zambia? Was he rewinding and pausing the video to capture all the details? How did he decide to convict Iris?  If we are going to convict people over sex then we may as well go full throttle and convict adulterers, dead beat dads and everyone else in between. Convicting people solely on moral behavior is a misjudgment.

If I had a chance to visit Iris in that filthy jail cell at Lusaka central prison, I would hold her hand and tell her to put her head back up. She is not a criminal, she is a young woman who fumbled on the path of life like all of us have done at one point or another. Her erring must not be the end of her life, this must be a new beginning for her. She has already shown maturity and resilience in facing her public conviction.  There is no sentence bigger than shame and rejection.  Sending Iris to prison will be sentencing her two times over.  Iris must be pardoned and returned to school.  I am positive that she will make a good citizen of herself but we must give her a chance first.

Some commendable citizens have taken matters into their own hands and started a Facebook page to pardon Iris.  Those on the ground in Zambia, especially women’s rights groups must also mount support for Iris at her sentencing on Thursday and make sure that young woman goes home to her family and carry on with her education.

Iris, hang on in there.  If any adult in that court room has never had sexual relations then let them throw the first stone.

Ah the revolution or not…

Theresa Lungu
I just finished reading an article by Lady C published on this site in which she writes quote, the majority of Zambian women in the UK who are so sick and tired of being embarrassed by underperforming Zambian men who readily complain about Nigerian men bagging Zambian ladies. What do they honestly expect the ladies to do? Settle for a measly bronze medal when they can have an undisputed gold one?? Come on!!, end of quote.
Wow! I find the above statement pretty bold considering the number of Zambian women in the UK. It is interesting how 21st century women crave independence and equal rights so fervently and yet so many more want to be defined by the kind of man they marry. Or could this just be Zambian women lagging in personal growth? Well, much Like Lady C in London, I was recently at a gathering in Boston, with a few women from different backgrounds. With this group, the consensus was financial independence, achieving goals and fulfilled lives regardless of whether or not a man happens along.
Then there was the International Women’s Day celebrated around the world. Of course my interest was how the day was marked in Zambia. Finally, I saw the pictures this mornign. I saw women dressed in political chitenge imprinted with President Sata and former President RB’s heads. Little girls dancing their hearts out in pouring rain as President Sata stood under a canopy while the women marched past dancing and waving. Wait a minute, I thought this was women’s day not government day! This is a day to ponder ending domestic violence, to abash sexual abuse and harassment, to lobby for more jobs and better pay for women. In other words women’s day is about empowerment not waving at President Sata! That aside, Zambia has had a long tradition of using little girls to entertain government officials, bringing them flowers at the airport, holding the scissors tray at commissioning ceremonies and so forth. The point is these little girls are growing up with the mentality that all a woman has to do is wear a pretty dress and serve men. Forget the grass, the roots are already poisoned.
And just yesterday, former Tourism minister Catherine Namugala was encouraging women to go in public ‘scantily dressed’ in protest of the MMD being deregistered as a political woman. Really? And you hope women to gain respect in this manner? What kind of air head reasoning is this? Personal note to Catherine: you just set Zambian women back 50 years and for you own personal gain! Women can be heard and respected fully clothed and you as a leader should be preaching this. Be the first one to undress and I hope you will be the only one. Exploitation of women by women, this is sad.
Honestly, I don’t want to go into another rant about how poorly women are treated in Zambia and what ought to be done about the situation. However, If I were the gender minister in Zambia, I would aim the next women’s day at women and girls with sensitization on self- sufficiency and self worthiness.
To Lady C, I hope you had an opportunity to tell your friends that it spells inferiority and ignorance in assuming every one foreign is more sophisticated as them alleging West African men are better than Zambian men.

By Theresa Lungu

Theresa Lungu

It has been interesting to read the varying reactions of Zambians to the suggestion by UN Secretary General Ki-Moon for Zambia to consider gay rights.   The headline has been the most commented on story on blogs. “Homosexuality is an evil/wicked thing, only a fool can call it human rights,” one blogger on Lusaka times wrote. Do we really have people who are gay in Zambia or is it just a western phenomenon?,  yet another blogger asked. Ultimately, the Zambian government issued a statement this morning that homosexuality is not allowed in Zambia.

The question is, what is wrong with two adults having consensual sex? Whether it is two women or two men.  Must human rights be selective? vis a vis, only to be awarded to people who have sex the ‘accepted’ way?  Additionally, what is the social and economic impact of gay people in Zambia?

Some years back, a neighbor in Luanshya impregnated his 16 year old niece.  The family hushed it up and sent the girl away. My neighbor and his wife are still married.  Is this man who rapes a child better than a man or woman who has consensual sex with another adult?

Religious organizations in Zambia would rather see hell than tolerate gay citizens.  Doesn’t the bible teach acceptance and to let God be the judge?  What makes it right to discriminate against people because they are in the minority?

I often wonder how it must have felt like for our forefathers in slavery when they were considered half human because of their skin color or for South Africans who lived through apartheid.  I wonder too how gay people in Zambia feel, the fear of coming out in the open, the rejection.  I bet every Zambian condemns slave masters and Boers for the mistreatment of blacks and yet they pat each other on the backs for discriminating against Gay people.  Basically, aren’t bigotry and racism in the same bracket?

Peace and equality is what many citizens of the world strive for and I truly hope Zambia is also striving for the same. A Zambia where every woman, man and child are treated equally regardless of their gender, sex orientation, religious belief, disability or skin color.

The international theme for World AIDS Day 2011, backed by the World AIDS Campaign and UNAIDS, is ‘Getting to zero’, namely zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. Here at UKZAMBIANS we are thankful to Theresa Lungu who took her time to write for us our World AIDS Day 2011 message.

By Theresa Lungu

Theresa Lungu

It has been 30 years of carnage in the wake of the worst epidemic of the 21st Century, AIDS.

Although there is still no cure for the disease, the last decade has seen significantly advanced treatment in the form of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART).HAART is an aggressive treatment regimen that suppresses HIV viral replication and the progression of HIV disease. HAART has proven to reduce the amount of active virus and in some cases can lower the number of active virus until it is undetectable by current blood testing techniques.[1]  This means HIV is more manageable and patients now live healthier, longer.  At the end of 2010, 34 million people were living with HIV/AIDS, a 20 percent decline since 2007.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Zambia, HIV infections have also decreased. These encouraging numbers didn’t come up by chance, it is through the hard work of care and service providers, prevention specialists and advocates. With all the knowledge and expertise that the world is now armed with in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the emphasis has fallen on creating an AIDS free generation, a task for each one of us.

AIDS affects all of us.  It is not a social disease, it is society’s disease.  Almost every Zambian I know has lost a loved one to AIDS, some families have lost multiple members.   However, most of the time, we don’t even want to share news of a relative being diagnosed with AIDS.  It is too shameful to tell.  When someone in the family has malaria or diabetes or cancer we take our solemn faces to neighbors, friends and co-workers in search of sympathy and support.  But when the diagnosis is AIDS we keep quiet and talk in whispers among family. Why?

An HIV/AIDS diagnosis in the family must be used as a learning moment for the rest of the family members, especially younger members who may not be fully aware of the disease and how it is contracted.   Twenty first century children have access to information online and it may not always be the correct information.   It is momentous when elders in the family talk to younger members candidly about sex and the pleasures and risks that come with it. Even as adults, we all remember our parents’/guardians’ teachings. I therefore get alarmed by some Zambian parents who still think it is too sticky to talk to their children about sex and sexually transmitted diseases.  For your information, there is an increased rate of HIV infections in young people aged 15 to 21.   Whether you like it or not your tween’s body is awakening, it is nature!  Ignorant silence is not going to stop him or her from experimenting with sex.  If we are to achieve an AIDS free generation, the work starts now, with you.

HIV/AIDS patients need our support as family, as friends, as neighbors.   Stigma and discrimination contribute to the fueling of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Many peoplehesitate to get tested for fear of being ostracized by family and friends.  Or they carry the burden alone after being diagnosed because there are still people out there who give the side eye at the mention of AIDS.

I recently received a call from a woman I consideredintelligent.  She called me with the newsthat a mutual acquaintance’s ex-boyfriend had died from AIDS in Zambia.  “Do you think our friend also has it?  I want to see her face when she finds out!” my caller wanted to know.  I was totally disgusted by this call. If I had a Facebook page I could have unfriended this person instantly.  It is that kind of attitude that is still killing people.

If, after three decades you are still sitting there believing HIV/AIDS is only for the wretched and the promiscuous, then God have mercy on you!Think about the baby born with HIV, think about the housewife who gets infected by a philandering husband, think about the rape victim, think about the un-informed youth who gets infected on the first sexual encounter, think about all who got infected with tainted blood in hospitals, think about the millions of AIDS orphans around the world whose lives have been altered forever…

For many of us, World AIDS Day is a tribute and memorial to loved ones battling HIV/AIDS and those we’ve lost.  To our siblings, to our spouses, to our parents, to our aunts and uncles, to our nieces, nephews and friends, you are loved, we stand with you.

[1]http://aids.about.com/od/hivaidsletterh/g/haartdef.htm

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