Mrs. Grace Chibwa – on her 50th birthday
Given a variety of circumstances, for many of us in the UK, Mrs. Grace Chibwa, the wife of the former High Commissioner to the UK, His Excellency Anderson Chibwa, was an exceptional hospitable person.
In this week: 60 Seconds interview, we dedicate this space to the interview that UKZAMBIANS had with her before she left the UK. Mrs. Chibwa, as usual, opened up about herself and share some of her charitable efforts.
She is currently in Malaysia on another important tour of duty for Country.
UKZAMBIANS: Please tell us about yourself, family and educational background
MRS CHIBWA: I am the first born in a family of 10, 6 girls and 4 boys and I am a mother of 6, 3 boys and 3 girls. I did my secondary school education at Fatima Secondary School. I then went to the University of Zambia where I got a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, with a minor in Business Administration. A few years later, I came to the UK to do my masters degree (MSc) in National Development and Project Planning at The University of Bradford.
I worked for the Small Enterprises Development Board, where I rose to the position of Senior Regional Manager in charge of Central Province. Almost all my working life has been in the promotion of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs). I have also done several short courses as well in SMEs.
UKZAMBIANS: When did you come to the UK?
MRS CHIBWA: We came to the UK in May 2003 when my husband was appointed High Commissioner to the UK.
UKZAMBIANS: What are your main responsibilities as spouse of the High Commissioner?
MRS CHIBWA: As spouse of the High Commissioner, my role is to compliment the job of the High Commissioner. We don’t have an official ‘ job description ‘ if I may say so, but there are certain duties that are expected of me as the high commissioner’s spouse. I have to accompany the High Commissioner to state functions such as the Foreign Secretary’s dinner, the Queen’s reception at Buckingham Palace, the ceremonial Opening of Parliament by the Queen etc, not to mention the numerous national day events at other embassies. I also do a lot of entertaining at home.
UKZAMBIANS: We understand that as the wife of the High Commissioner, you are not allowed to take any paid work in the UK. How does that affect your personal career?
MRS CHIBWA: Spouses of diplomats in the UK are allowed to work. London is one of the very few stations where diplomat’s spouses are allowed to work. However, in my case I cannot take any paid job because this station is so busy and being High Commissioners wife is almost a full time job. I have functions and meetings to attend on a weekly basis so that a full time job is out of the question. This has obviously affected my personal career as I have not been in formal employment for over six years. I don’t know where I will start from when we go back to Zambia.
UKZAMBIANS: Given that this is a diplomatic occupation, i.e. you have to meet the Queen, Prime Ministers, and other Heads of state, do spouses of Zambian diplomats receive any training or orientation, for example in international protocols and etiquette, and other important areas to prepare and enable them to carry out their roles effectively?
MRS CHIBWA: Yes, we do but it too brief to cover all these aspects. The Ambassadors as well as other diplomats receive very detailed briefings, but the one I attended was just for one morning. It covered the most important things though, but for many other issues, you just have to learn on your own, with a few mistakes in the process of course! I am still learning up to today.
UKZAMBIANS: Since coming to the UK you have held some very important positions in the diplomatic community in the UK. Can you tell us what those positions have been and your duties as office bearer? For example there is a charity group for wives of African diplomats.
MRS CHIBWA: The London diplomatic community is truly vibrant, so there are always exciting things to do. There are always tours, lunches, lectures, fairs and fundraising events to organise. The Association of Spouses of African High Commissioners and Ambassadors, (ASAHCA) was formed in 1982 and draws its membership from 34 African countries represented in the UK. Its objective is to foster a spirit of understanding and cooperation among African countries represented in the UK. We hold an annual fundraising event and donate the money to charities in our home countries. The beneficiary of ASAHCA funds in Zambia has been the Lions Club of Kabwe of which I am a member and past President. We have been buying hearing aids for children at the Broadway School for the Hearing Impaired.
I have been elected President of ASAHCA twice, in 2004 and 2008. Being a member of ASAHCA has been very rewarding indeed. We are true sisters, and I know that when I go back to Zambia I will have a friend in almost every African country. I visited Ghana in 2006 when I went for the Global Compact Conference and the former High Commissioner and his wife looked after me very well. I am now planning to visit Nigeria and Egypt.
I have also been a member of the executive committee of the Commonwealth Countries League Fair Committee. The fair committee organises the Commonwealth Fair in which we all participate as Commonwealth countries to raise funds to sponsor needy but academically gifted girls into secondary schools. I have also while representing ASAHCA, been on the executive of the Federation of International Women’s Clubs in London (FIWAL). FIWAL has a membership of about 35 women’s clubs from all the five continents thereby giving its members cultural exchange and networking on a very big scale.
The spouses of Zambian diplomats have also formed Tushuke Club which has been in existence for many years. I have been Patron of Tushuke Club as wife of the High Commissioner. Tushuke Club has also embarked on several fundraising events and has been making donations back home. We have made donations to Grace Ministries Orphanage, Children’s Road Safety Trust Fund, University Teaching Hospital Children’s Ward and the Maureen Mwanawasa Community Initiative just to mention a few.
Tushuke Club is currently sponsoring a student at Lwitikila Secondary School.
I am also happy to say that I have been a founder member of The Fatima Alumni- London which held its first fundraising lunch last year. We have made a donation of £1000 to the school for buying printers.
I am also Patron of the Zambian Catholics and Friends UK. We are currently fundraising for the Zambia Catholic University in Kalulushi.
UKZAMBIANS: The High Commissioner was awarded the ‘Freedom of the City of London ‘, what did this mean to the High Commissioner?
MRS CHIBWA: The ‘Freedom of the City of London ‘given to the High Commissioner is a very big honour for us. As you know, this status is bestowed on someone in recognition of their work, in my husband’s case, he has succeeded through hard work and commitment, to increase and strengthen ties and investment between Britain and Zambia.
UKZAMBIANS: What have been your proudest and most memorable moments while serving the diplomatic community in the UK?
MRS CHIBWA: I guess my husband’s Award by the City of London is one of them. The Presentation of Credentials are also very memorable ones. Meeting with Pope John Paul II and going to Buckingham Palace in a horse drawn carriage was very exciting. As you may know, the High Commissioner is also Ambassador to the Vatican and The Republic of Ireland.
UKZAMBIANS: We know that you will be leaving the UK soon, what words of encouragement do you have for Zambians in the UK?
MRS CHIBWA: I would like to encourage my fellow Zambians here in the UK to remain united and to work together. I am happy to say that there has been an improvement in interaction among Zambians either as associations and individuals. This is a good thing, but we are not yet there. We must continue our efforts to foster a spirit of working together and patriotism towards Mother Zambia. As we say in Bemba, ‘Umunwe umo tausala inda‘. As a group we shall achieve more than if we keep to ourselves. Everyone here is an ambassador for Zambia so let us all work for a better image of Zambia abroad. I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Zambians in the UK for all the support they have given us during our stay here.
UKZAMBIANS: Many thanks for your time.
MRS CHIBWA: You are welcome.
Mrs. Chibwa’s 50th Birth Day Cutting the cake
The children welcoming First Lady Mrs. Banda, at Greenbanks when she came for a lunch in her honour
Welcoming the First Lady Mrs. Banda,
Dinner with the First Lady Mrs. Banda.