Featured Storyteller

ZAMBIA: Can Women Have It All?

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
Posted May 4, 2017 from Zambia
This woman waited until her five children had graduated college before she pursued her studies for her master's degree. Photo courtesy of Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani.

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani believes women shouldn’t have to choose between their education, their families, and their careers.

“What if we let our partners play their role in supporting our dreams the same way we support theirs?

When a friend of mine learned she had been accepted to pursue her graduate studies at the prestigious Harvard University, her first reaction was pride. She grew up an orphan and worked hard to get to the level she is at now in her career as an educational consultant. She had never imagined she would get an opportunity like this.

After reading the acceptance email, her next thought was about her two children. Her excitement died down amid all the questions she faced as a single parent. Could she take her children with her to the United States? Was that even allowed? Who wouldhelp take care of her two children if she were to pursue her graduate studies and advanceher career?

The day my friend received the news of her acceptance was International Women’s Day. Her dilemma reminds me of the choices so many women today must make to get ahead in my country, Zambia—and in the world at large.

At first, I wondered if it would have been easier for my friend if she had a partner. But itisn’t just single mums who struggle to balance family with their education and career. My colleagues who are married or have partners echo the same challenges.

One colleague shared with me that her friends and family members think she is a bad parent because her ex-partner has sole custody of their daughter. My colleague is still in college, so she does not live with her 8-year-old daughter and does not have the financial resources to support her.

“Does being a father or a mother not make both parents?” my colleague asked. “Is being a parent 25% for the father and 75% for the mother? Is a father less of a parent? Are they not both capable of raising children?”

Her question made me wonder whether men have the same thoughts when given similar opportunities. Do they think first of their children and then of their careers?

Women as humans should have the same access to opportunities as men. Whether we are married or not, have a partner or not, or are single parents, we have a right to education and career choice, with a social system in place to support that. We need policies that support our educational advancement as well as policies that support our families, such as maternal and paternal leave and child care.

As women, I think we also need to step up boldly to make our roles in relationships more equitable. For those of us women with partners, how are we treating them? Are we giving them room to be real partners? Or are we acting according to how society labels women?

Are we taking on too much of the caregiver role? Are we like the mother who goes out of town for work but constantly calls home to check if her partner has given the children a proper meal and a bath? Are we trying to be superwomen and not giving our partners the opportunity to share the responsibility?

What if we let our partners play their role in supporting our dreams the same way we support theirs? As we fight for gender rights, for more inclusiveness at the table, let us create space where men can come and take the positions we leave behind as we move forward. Each one of us has something important to contribute and a role to play. Women cannot do it all on our own. Even superwoman needs a sidekick!

I don’t want my daughter to face the same tough choices my colleagues and I face today. Change starts with treating my daughter the same way as my son. It starts with giving my nieces and nephews the same opportunities. It starts with raising children, especially girls, to understand that they deserve equal rights and access to the same opportunities.

I have found that my power to make change starts in my own home. I challenge everyone reading this to work for gender equality in your households just as you demand it in your community.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller!Learn more.

How to Get Involved

Join Lumbiwe in her work to support women and girls' rights, empowerment, and access to education in Zambia! Head to Facebook, where you can like her organization Cumacatu and follow their activities.

Comments 41

Log in or register to post comments
iyamail
May 05, 2017
May 05, 2017

What a powerful article with a powerful voice. The message I have taken from this wonderful post is this: we have to be conscious!

It is easy to rally for a cause but I ask myself how my actions are encouraging the feminist movement. What an eye-opener. So many anecdotal phrases too. Charity definitely begins at home when we "create space where men can come and take the positions we leave behind as we move forward". Thumbs up!

Iya

"A needlepoint shift in direction today is worth a grand arc of change in the future"

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 30, 2017
May 30, 2017

Thank you. We definitely have to be conscious. I am glad it was an eye-opener as it was for me too.

Nicole Joseph-Chin
May 05, 2017
May 05, 2017

Great article my sister Lulu! Thanks for sharing. 

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 30, 2017
May 30, 2017

Thank you Nicole my sister.

Anjana Vaidya
May 05, 2017
May 05, 2017

Dear Lulu,

Thank you for sharing your powerful thought. Definitely, we need to step up boldly to make our roles in relationships more equitable.We have to start from us and our family to practice and claim for the equality. 

In solidarity,

anjana

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 30, 2017
May 30, 2017

Thank you Anjana. In solidarity.

Meg Dale
May 06, 2017
May 06, 2017

Yes!! I couldn't agree with you more. We should all be spokespeople for gender equality in the home and our communities! Way to spread solidarity!

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 30, 2017
May 30, 2017

Thank you so much.

Julia O
May 07, 2017
May 07, 2017

Dear Lumbiwe Lulu, 

What a thought provoking post! I found myself nodding and thinking about my answers to so many of the questions you posed. They were all great questions that need to be asked again and again. I have decided to try to your challenge. I sometimes complain and grumble internally about perceived inequities in my own home but your post reminded me that I should turn my thoughts and sometimes complaints into real reflection and action. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas!

Finally, I really hope your friend is able to find a way to attend Harvard!

Best wishes,

Julia

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 30, 2017
May 30, 2017

Thank you so much. I am glad you have taken on the challenge. I have a daughter and son and I know how years of social and cultural indoctrination can be difficult to break in the home. Do share your reflections on how it is going for you if you can. Thank you again.

LillianVB
May 10, 2017
May 10, 2017

Dear Lulu4Lumbiwe,

This story resonates a lot with my own experience and that of many women. I know that for any women to achieve so much they have to work doubly hard to achieve what men do. It is hard long journey but is doable and the more women sacrifice albeit with difficulty, their efforts are not in vain. Many more get inspired to work hard because they have seen others manage. A story that makes me feel good!

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 30, 2017
May 30, 2017

Thank you Lillian. Your comments makes me feel good. Indeed we have a way to go, but w are making progress.

Tan Ching
May 10, 2017
May 10, 2017

Thanks for sharing your story to inspire fellow women that we are equal to men and should be so in this world. 

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 30, 2017
May 30, 2017

Thank you

Mary in Hong Kong
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

My Mom and I both applaud your thoughts, emotions and decisions.  It's not easy to pursuit your own dreams, and even more challenging as a mother.  BUT with the right conversations and by asking for help and thinking about HOW it can be done most of those dreams can become a reality.  The first step is making sure that you take as good of care of yourself as you do others, including your children.  My Mom used daycare and the neighbors as our keepers so that she could go back to school once we were in school ourselves.   We had to learn to look out for each other, to take on new cooking and laundry and other tasks at home --most of all though we learned independence and what it meant to be responsible.   And 4 years later my Mom lived her dream and received her college degree.   BELIEVE.  And dont forget ask for help---and then trust that things will fall in to place, maybe not as perfectly as if you were managing all of the details but good enough to move forward.     Dream big.

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 30, 2017
May 30, 2017

Dear Mary. Thank you and you are absolutely right. It is very important that we make sure we take care of ourselves as we do others. You mum is very brave and inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing your story too.

Carrie Lee
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

Oh how I love what you have written here! By following societal norms women often question their ability and their worthiness of building a life they can truly call their own. It doesn't mean we have to choose between family, career and education, as you said. What is the thread that weaves it all together? I believe it all starts in our hearts and like you said, finding equality in the household just as we demand it in our communities. 

Thank you for sharing your story! 

Warmly,

Carrie

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 31, 2017
May 31, 2017

Thank you Carrie.

jwhybl
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

Thank you for sharing your story & inspiring me to be more conscious of the example I'm setting for my children.  I have been able to juggle a full-time career and parenting 2 young children, but I often find myself carrying much more than my 50% share of taking care of things around the house & letting my husband get away with doing very little of the child rearing & household chores.  I blame myself mostly for not making him step up more, but I also realize I perpetuate it by not speaking up & asking for help & setting expectations of a balanced workload.  Most importantly, from your story, I'm realizing that it's not just me that suffers from this situation -- I'm not setting a good example for my children of what a balanced home life should look like, especially with regard to "gender stereotypes" in the home.  I will be more conscious of this now.

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 31, 2017
May 31, 2017

Thank you Jwhybl. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is indeed difficult to change those social stereotypes we have become accustomed to. However, we need to realize that and begin taking steps to change it starting from the home. I have two children and I find I have to consciously watch what I say to both my son and daughter. Small steps, and we will get there.  Thank you again for sharing. I am inspired too.

sfbgm
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

Thank you for sharing your story!  I agree that each of us can start with ourselves when it comes to driving change.  I also agree that acknowledgement from our male partners and colleagues is essential.  Good luck!

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 31, 2017
May 31, 2017

Thank you sfbgm

SharingLyfe
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

What an eloquent way of articulating the progress we have made toward equality and the mindset shift that needs to (continue) to take place to attain true gender equality. Thank you for sharing your words and thoughts with us!

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 31, 2017
May 31, 2017

Thank you SharingLyfe

TeresaLee
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

Even though my father encouraged his 3 daughters to be self sufficient and independent, greater emphasis was placed on his son, my brother, in pursuing a challenging career. I completely agree with you and endorse your approach.  Caregiving for the family should not be just relegated to the woman, with her career development as secondary.  Great story and so well written!

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 31, 2017
May 31, 2017

Thank you TeresaLee. Thank you for sharing your experience. More food for thought.

EquinixSCV
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

I agree with you, when a partner supports your dream, so many wonderful things can happen!

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 31, 2017
May 31, 2017

Thank you EquinixSCV. They do indeed!

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

Dear Lulu,

Thank you for opening our eyes to this issue. many women are engrossed in their role as wives and mothers that many opportunities simply pass them by. It is good for us to have a conversation on this note so that our daughters can advance their careers and have a family and a supporting family system. I know of many women who have persue their careers and have failed to get married. And i know of many women who have put their careers on the line for the sake of family. When women give birth its like a norm that she has to look after the child and let the husband work. This is an issue that is never discussed and debated upon because it is what happens in society and this is not fair for the women.

Thanks for sharing and i stand with you to ensure gender equality for our daughters and sons.

Stay blessed

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 31, 2017
May 31, 2017

Thank you Anita. What great insights you share too. We do indeed need to break those social/cultural barriers and be conscious in how we raise our children so that we continue to ensure a more gender equal world. Thank you

Tejaswini Tilak
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

What a great story. This is a challenge that all women face, irrespective of country and social background. It always feels like women feel the need to "justify" pursuing their ambitions (which, in many cases, improve the lives of their families) whereas it is just the "norm" for men to make sacrifices in personal life to pursue professional goals.

You are absolutely right that change begins at home - and for those of us fortunate to have kids, it is absolutely up to us to raise both our daughters and our sons as equals and give them every possible opportunity to grow and be successful!

Really appreciated reading your story. Keep writing!

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 31, 2017
May 31, 2017

Thank you Tejaswini.

imsalesops
May 16, 2017
May 16, 2017

That is a brave change as a woman.  We should treat others and ourselves equally.  We work as hard as men and we deserve the same opportunity.  Passing this belief to your children is a good start.  Yeah!  Support from HK.

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 31, 2017
May 31, 2017

Thank you HK, it is indeed a brave change. But we are strong and take all so much already. We can do this too and treat others and ourselves equally.

Dark Chocolate
May 18, 2017
May 18, 2017

Dear Lulu,

Thanks for sharing. I truly agree with you and I can relate myself too. I guess some point in their time all women have experienced or experience the gender inequality. Choosing between the goals or dreams and family is really a tough challenge for all women. If a woman chooses family, her extended family and society treat her as a great parent and praise her sacrifice but if she chooses to achieve her goal the same society treats her as if she has done a great sin and make her feel guilty.

As women are part of this society and mankind, women deserve equal rights and can enjoy everything from education, marriage, kids, holiday, equal salary, equal bonus, equal opportunities etc. We should change the society to support this.

My support is all with you.

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
May 31, 2017
May 31, 2017

Thank you Dark Chocolate. We should indeed continue to change society to support our equality. Thank you for the support.

christelle
Jun 06, 2017
Jun 06, 2017

Bonjour Lulu,

vraiment une grande courange de montre aux enfants , ainsi que aux femmes que la parité existe et l'égalité du sexe les menages ou dans la communauté. Merci

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
Jun 20, 2017
Jun 20, 2017

Merci Christelle

christelle
Jun 20, 2017
Jun 20, 2017

Courage vraiment

Wendy Stebbins
Feb 21, 2018
Feb 21, 2018

Dear Lulu, 

I just came across your amazing article. Where are you in Zambia? Each question you ask is a necessary spoke of the umbrella that MUST be given a technique for. I work in Zambia, will be back soon,  and have several street orphans in University and med school. Our first graduated from UNZA last year. I notice there are several factors that make it impossible for even the brightest to succeed. As you know, many do not have good brains due to malnutrition at birth and early childhood. I find those who can learn well. The problem is, people give all these ideas but what they NEED is TECHNIQUES. Simple techniques to grab onto, try and make a habit one step at a time. My article BRINGING UP BOYS gives a couple but not  all i use. Watch for an article that is to be written by one of my University students on a couple techniques and how I taught him to utiluze them and make them a habit. FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY. Another NEVER TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER. And he will share the exact life situation I thrust him into and made him do over and over to increase the habit and change his self-confidence. Saying the saying by itself or philisophizing how important this change is does nothing in my experience to improve the way a person increases their success level. 

I could go on and on with specific techniques i have taught but will not. Just want to say, your article is brilliant and should be sent all over the world to every printable source for both genders to read as an inspiring starting point to change. Now bring on the techniques everyone and make them a habit, one principle at a time. Thank you Lulu for your wonderful, amazing words.

Wendy Stebbins
Feb 21, 2018
Feb 21, 2018

LOVE your superwomen need a sidekick comment.