This year’s theme for women’s month is ‘breaking the bias’ and at Fleri, we are looking at shining the spotlight on African women around the world that are doing just that. There are many African women, on the continent and beyond, that are outstanding in their fields of expertise. While these women exist, their work and achievements are usually understated and it is with this in mind that we have decided to highlight some women that are industry leaders in their sectors.
Samba Yonga (Zambia)
Samba Yonga is a journalist by training and she says that it is this background that has fuelled her interest in stories and narratives. After studying for her Masters in Transnational Communications and Media, Samba moved back to Zambia. Speaking on why she decided to move back to Africa and seemingly turning her back on opportunities in Europe, Samba says that the decision was influenced by her desire to change the narrative around the African continent. Having worked at the BBC, she learnt that most of the reporting around Africa seemed to focus on the negative narratives which, while being true, are not all there is to speak about. “I was just like this is not the story I want to tell”, says Samba. “This is not the story of Africa I want to tell. I want to tell a more positive story consistently.”
It is on the back of wanting to change the African narrative that Samba set up Ku-Atenga Media, The company offers territorial expertise on the African market to players that want to venture into the African market. Through the services offered by Ku-Atenga, companies are able to get communications services that allow them to get their messages to their target markets in the most effective manner. Through her work with Ku-Atenga, Samba discovered that there is a lot of misinformation about Africa and she believes that it is our duty as custodians of the continent to correct that misinformation and set the record straight if Africa is to take her place as a global leader.
As part of the effort to change the African narrative, Samba co-founded the Zambian Women’s History Museum with Mulenga Kapwepwe, an author and cultural expert. The museum’s primary goal is to define and restore indigenous African knowledge systems, and use this restoration to create clarity around the available information about the continent. The museum exists at an intersection of knowledge drawn from indigenous systems, exhibiting of indigenous art, and the digital and creative industry of today’s Africa. Samba feels that one of her biggest career accomplishments is the influence that the Women’s History Museum has had on the general perception of Africa.
The museum’s work goes a long way towards breaking the bias through showing the critical roles that African women played pre-colonial times and how this can be translated into modern day society. Women acted as peacekeepers and mediators, among other key roles, for pre-colonial African states, and signs of this can still be seen in the roles African women play in their families. While women play these important roles in their communities, this is not forefronted, and it is such stories that the museum’s work aims to highlight.
Breaking the Bias
Breaking the bias is a concept that requires a conscious effort from all individuals and it has the potential to overhaul society for the better. According to Samba, women’s sovereignty is a key component in the bid to break the bias. Samba says that “masculinity has overridden how we live our life and masculinity is seen as the main driver of leadership, of control, of being on top, and yet is not.” She goes on further to explain how this has created an imbalance from which the bias stems. In this patriarchal system that is fueled by masculinity, women have been forced to create masculine personas and this further perpetuates the bias against women.
When asked how she is breaking the bias , Samba says that there needs to be a reversal of the imbalance and realize that both masculine and feminine energies should co-exist on a level plane. “That imbalance has caused a bias, has caused discrimination, has caused women to be set aside and what needs to happen is reverse that (im)balance.” She goes on to say that “what needs to happen is a reversal and a balance where we realize that both masculine and feminine energies need to exist at par.”
As we commemorate women’s month, we celebrate Samba Yonga and the work that she is doing to change the narratives surrounding Africa. Ku-Atenga Media and the Women’s History Museum are examples of how Africans can secure their future through acquiring knowledge about their history, and using lessons drawn from that history to correct the present and by extension, the future. We salute you Samba!