Oct 23, 2011

Mama Kankasa – Freedom Fighter

Mama Chibesakunda Kankasa was a firebrand during the Kenneth Kaunda’s UNIP era, serving as chairperson of the Women’s League and as member of the Central Committee, which at the time was the highest policy making body within the government. 

In the lead up to independence in 1964, she and her husband were active in the movement agitating for Zambia’s freedom from colonial rule. In her words, she was nicknamed “national cook” by the male freedom fighters who were hosted numerous times in her home and she boldly asked when she could join the movement beyond just being a hostess. Her husband, Timothy Jiranda Kankasa, was supportive of her role as a nationalist and declared – “a revolution without women’s participation cannot be a reality.” 

In 1955 she stepped up her role serving as a recruiter and helping bring more prominence to the role of women. During her time in the UNIP administration as minister for women’s affairs (1969-88), she helped push for expanded women’s rights such as paid maternity leave, which was successful. Of particular note about Mama Kankasa is how young she was during the height of the nationalist movement - she was only in her twenties. 

Today, Mama Kankasa, at age 75, remains actively engaged in initiatives such as the increased access to education for girls in rural and urban areas. She founded an orphanage in Lusaka's Kalingalinga compound, and also mentors young women interested in politics and leadership. 


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