Monday, April 6, 2020 | News

The Girls and I: Ipas Zambia director helps women develop leadership skills

Grace Tambatamba ChiyabaGrace Tambatamba-Chiyaba, Ipas Zambia director, knows that anybody can be a leader. Tambatamba-Chiyaba is an enthusiastic mentor for both the women on her staff and women in her community. “The greatest opportunity I’ve had is to work with young women—and not so young women—on finding themselves,” she says.

In Ipas Zambia’s office, Tambatamba-Chiyaba runs The Girls and I, a mentoring group for younger staff members focusing on helping them seek opportunities, grow into leadership roles and manage work/life balance, particularly in a country with patriarchal cultural norms. “I love to see how some members of the team are sliding into leadership roles. I like helping them understand that they do not need to wait until they’re called upon or look to their male team members to perform certain tasks,” she says. “They can be leaders and be good at it.”

Lifting others up comes naturally to Tambatamba-Chiyaba. She is also currently working with a young woman who waited tables in the evening at a restaurant where Tambatamba-Chiyaba would go. The woman was intelligent, and Tambatamba-Chiyaba started chatting with her and asking about her background. Her father had died and her mother was unemployed; she’d had to drop out of high school because she couldn’t afford the fees and had to work to help support her mother. But she dreamt of going to university and becoming an economist.

Tambatamba-Chiyaba and the woman exchanged numbers and she arranged for her to take her exams. She also found her a job in a restaurant where she wouldn’t need to work at night. She’ll soon be applying to university.

But the most important thing was talking to her about her social life, says Tambatamba-Chiyaba. “One thing I noticed was that, while she was very ambitious, she was being limited by how she was managing her sexuality. I made sure she had the sexual and reproductive health and rights information she required,” including how to access to contraception.

Why is mentoring important? Because “most times, we only do things that we know how to do,” says Tambatamba-Chiyaba. “When you’re young and you’ve never had an experience, you can only do things you know how to do. But when you have someone who has walked the journey, they can help you manage it.”

Tambatamba-Chiyaba is inspired by a professional network of women of which she is a part, and by her mother, who became a leader at a young age. “She taught me I needed to grow into being strong and powerful in order to make a difference. That’s what I’ve believed all my life—that if I’m at the table, I have to make an impact.”

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