Oct 20, 2011

Mama Chikamoneka – Freedom Fighter

To commemorate Zambia’s independence this year, I’m highlighting the work of several freedom fighters whose names remain as footnotes in our history books. They are the unsung heroes who played very important roles in the fight against colonial rule – the courage and bravery of these women is inspiring and sets an example of what can be accomplished when you stand up for what you believe is right. Today, I highlight Mama Chikamoneka. 

Julia Mulenga Nsofwa also known as Mama Chikamoneka was a fierce activist and organiser. Chikamoneka was a moniker she adopted to hide her identity when mobilising citizens to avoid being jailed, which happened quite routinely. The literal translation in Bemba is “it will be seen.” 

She organised women protests against colonial oppression and was a founding member of the Women’s Brigade. The Brigade housed nationalist leaders, raised funds for the cause and organised events across the country. Mama Chikamoneka was incredibly effective at recruiting and was often at the forefront of the protests and marches she organised. She also rallied women to boycott butcheries which abused their African customers and often sold inferior meats.

Her home was used as a meeting place for other leaders of the nationalist movement who were in hiding, and was in fact where the African National Independent Party was formed. This party later morphed into the United National Independent Party (UNIP) which later led by Zambia’s first president. 

Mama Chikamoneka’s most legendary act of defiance was her decision to march half naked with other activists in public to protest the abhorrent colonial regime and to call for immediate independence. This happened in 1960 when Ian McLeod, Secretary of States for the Colonies, visited Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia).  McLeod famously wept as a result of this action, and Mama called it “the most amusing incident in my life.” In her view, to show her nakedness was the highest form of anger and the only weapon she had – she wanted to highlight the suffering of the people. 

 Courtesy of The National Archives UK

Mama Chikamoneka was honoured for her role in the nationalist struggle by former president Kaunda, and when she died at age 76 in 1986 was given a state funeral. 


this is woman who should be celebrated every year and deserves to have a historical building/place named after her like has been done for the re-namimg of airports.

I second that motion! A brave woman who still to this day stands head and shoulders above so many. That honour will need to be spearheaded by people like you and I.

Miss B,
Thank you for writing this,as Zambian woman I appreciate it.You are helping me learn about myself through learning about my history.

This incredible lady is related to me through marriage and she was the esteemed guest of honour at my marriage to Adele Thersa Pensee-Arnold in Lusaka 1973.

She will up rise, just wait 2026 2031 our New president

Thanks a lot for publishing this article, it as really helped me to teach my boy who is in grade 9 during this period of covid-19

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