THE political environment in Zambia is still hostile for women but we are comforted by the fact that there are exemplary women like Vice-President Inonge Wina who have opened the way for other women to come on board, Mumbi Phiri has said.
Reflecting on her political life since coming onto the political scene in 2006 when she won the Munali parliamentary seat, Ms. Phiri said her political journey has not been rosy but said resilience, determination and the courage to rub shoulders with men had made her who she was today.
She advised women interested in taking up political careers to believe in themselves and realise that there was still some degree of stigma as politics in Zambia was still regarded as a game for men and women were just supposed to be spectators.
She, however, said women had the political acumen to change the political landscape in the country only if they could prove their worth just like men who had made the grade in Zambian politics.
She challenged women in politics to be more versatile in what they were doing without necessarily abandoning their duties as mothers or wives in their families because they still had a role to play in their homes.
“My only advice to women who want to take the a political path is to be focussed on what they want to achieve and not to be distracted by people because the political environment in Zambia is a little bit hostile towards women.
“A few year ago women were regarded as housekeepers and this is why whoever joined politics was attacked and accused of a lot of things just like they have done to me.
“If I were not determined, I would have abandoned politics because a lot has been said about me. The only good part for which I praise God is that my husband is a very understanding man who has not only disregarded the mudslinging against me but was the one who single-handedly sponsored my campaign for Munali in 2006 because he believed in me,” Ms. Phiri said.
She challenged women to hold themselves in high esteem if they wanted to make an impact in their political lives.
She said people like Ms. Wina were worth emulating because she had practiced her politics with dignity.
“There is this notion among people that for a female politician to get to the top in life, they have to use their bodies but that should not be the case. People will respect us based on what we portray when we join politics. We are in the limelight and whatever behaviour we portray is under scrutiny.
“We need to be mindful of what we do, wear or what we say in publics and I am glad that we have people like Ms. Wina who have conducted themselves as politicians in a dignified manner.
‘‘What she puts on or says portrays a picture worth emulating because if you are a woman in politics and every day you put on mini-skirts, for example, people will judge you based on your dress code because there is a lot of stereotyping out there,” Ms. Phiri said.