By Believe Chisanga
As we celebrate Women’s Day on 8th March, it is imperative that we honor the women who have broken records and dominances in this mostly male-dominated world. The female gender is usually expected to be in the kitchen and rear children, looking after the home but all this is now a thing of the past. Women have risen to show the world that they too can be as good as the menfolk, even better. And one of these strong women is our Director of Housing and Social Services Ms. Tilyenji Mwanza.
She was born and bred on the Copperbelt, the firstborn and only girl in a family of three. Ms. Mwanza says since African culture always dictates that a girl child should take care of the household and her being the eldest, responsibility has always been on her shoulders ensuring that she takes up a lead to nurture her two young brothers as her father used to give her a quote to say “Always keep a lead on top.’’
Tilyenji did her primary school at Trust School in Luanshya and part of her secondary school at Sacred Heart Convent School right here in Chingola and later moved to Lusaka where she completed her grade twelve (12).
Most people may think Tilyenji went direct into media or journalism as her first call but that wasn’t the case as her childhood dream was to be a medical doctor. She had brilliant results at grade twelve and made it to the University of Zambia in the school of Natural Sciences.
“I usually like to use this point of my life to give people especially young girls a life lesson.”
“When you come in from secondary school to university, most of us tend to be excited, with no mum or dad to control you, no curfew, etc and I got a little excitement along the way. Thus, I didn’t manage to make the points I needed to get into medicine and I was quoted for an agriculture program instead which I had no passion for. Unfortunately, I ended up falling pregnant too.”
At this point she flunked out of school and life became difficult with a little baby to care for. But eventually she picked herself up and dusted herself off, reapplied at UNZA and was fortunate enough to be given a bursary.
“I applied into Mass Communication which was not my calling but just with a view to get a basic education and have my degree.
Life was tough. She couldn’t afford boarding fees, she had to rent a room in Kabwata, from where she sometimes used to walk to UNZA. “I couldn’t even afford formula nor a maid for my baby, I just used to leave her with neighbors who were very helpful.”
It is also at this point that I would like to recognize IBA Director Mrs. Judith Mapoma who was Head of Department at that time as she really came through for me.
Inspite of all these challenges Ms. Mwanza got very good results and was employed by the Post Newspaper while in her Second year of study.
“I managed to get a lead story in the paper in my first week and Mr. Fred Mmembe who was the Director for the Post News Paper then was highly impressed that he immediately offered me a job with a full salary.”
After graduation, she stayed on at the Post and was tenacious enough to work ‘political beat’ which most people would shy away from.
“I’ve seen why most women don’t want to engage themselves in politics as it is considered a dirty game because even when I was trying to get those stories, many are the times men would just look at you as this pretty young girl, tying to sleep with you or mock you, not believing in your capabilities.”
After the Post suddenly terminated her contract, she says she reached a low point in her life as she underwent severe cyber bullying being accused of having a close affiliation with government and State House.
“Negative things were written about me and I was called horrible names. It tore me down”.
But tenacious as always, she pulled herself up, furthered her education acquiring another degree as well as a Master’s while doing her own gigs in Media Consultancy.
“I applied for a job with so many companies but never had call backs not until in 2017, I saw a job advert where Local Government was employing. I didn’t hesitate to apply and within a short period of time I was called for interviews. Thereafter, I was hired as a Public Relations Manager for Ndola City Council.” She said.
She broke the record because then for about 20 years, Ndola City Council had never had a female Public Relations Manager so she broke the male domination.
Ms. Mwanza says she’s had a very good experience with Ndola City Council as she was challenged to use her PR skills well and Local Government at large as it has helped her understand government from the citizen’s point of view.
“In local government, you just don’t get to make decisions, you get to deal with people from the grassroots and it’s the people themselves who dictate to us what they want”.
While at Ndola Municipal Council, she won several awards from Zambia Public Relations Association (ZAPRA) which she says was an amazing feeling because these usually went to big institutions like ZRA, ZESCO, NAPSA etc so it felt good to have Councils getting such award too.
In 2020, she was promoted to the position of Director Housing and Social Services here at Chingola Municipal Council.
“I feel so appreciative with the team I have here because I had only dealt with Housing from a PR perspective. Everyone has thrown in their best and I am grateful.”
“Life’s lesson for me has been, ‘work hard for what you have and you will appreciate it more’.”
“Endeavor to attain a certain level of education because wherever you will go, education will always be needed in one way or the other. You can have a talent but without education you can not go very far.” She reiterates.
Tilyenji is a young lady who spends most of her free time swimming with her kids and she enjoys reading as well as writing fiction stories, articles and poetry.