Dr. Mumba Chalwe Zambia's first woman in urology wants her accomplishments to inspire other women and girls, "Like I always say "iron sharpens iron" if women and girls can see fellow women as achievers outside the domestic sphere they can aim higher."
Mumba Chalwe-Kaja is a Medical Doctor, health advocate and co-founder of Stiletto Ink, a local lifestyle and wellness organisation that focuses on adult sexual and reproductive well being. She has recently completed her specialization in the surgical sub-specialty of urology, becoming Zambia's first and currently only female in urology.
In a Twitter conversation with Zambia Women Forum Dr. Chalwe gave insight on her experiences saying:
"Medicine was always a childhood dream. Urology on the other hand was a career choice based on many factors. I love challenges and the surgical field offered this. Urology as a specialty is dynamic and the fact that Zambia had no female reps. The desire to defy stereotypes and make a positive impact on people's lives was a huge motivation."
Her response to the challenges posed in a male dominated profession, "Definitely! It does. People typically expect their urologist to be an older male... I obviously don't fit that mould... Must add though, that since I first joined the department FOUR more females joined!! This in itself is a statement!! I must say that I've noticed that my gender and my presumed "youth" have been the biggest source of questions to my competence and abilities"
There are less than 20 female surgeons in Zambia. What are some of the factors contributing to this gender gap and how can it be narrowed?
Reacting to the possible solution to bridging the gender gap she said, "It's multifaceted I believe. The surgical field can be demanding. The training alone... for me it's been a 14 year journey. I also believe more female role models are needed. We need to debunk the "surgery is for men" myth. And SHOW those aspiring that they can! Our conservative culture plays a huge role and I see my presence as a step in the direction of progress."
"What might seem like "my" achievement is in fact a testament to "Our" openers to change as a nation. Both Men and women mentored me... The community has accepted me and even encouraged me! that right there is a sign that the tide is ever so slowly changing. I'm not oblivious to the challenges BUT I'm proof that we can overcome anything!"
Elaborating on the her organisation Stiletto Ink she described it as, "That is my passion. I realized (through my work) that even adults need "Sexual education" the most we get is preventative messages & interventions. Currently @StilettoSecrets runs "sexinars" where we candidly give women information about reproductive health. evidence based, reliable info. Gone as far as engaging with women at community level. Contact points include the traditional rites of passage and it works like a charm!"
Finally she described her accomplishment thus, "It's surreal. I went in to learn the trade and instead iv learnt life altering lessons, met life changing people, made lifetime friends... TEN!! I think i've proved more to myself than anyone else that perseverance, dedication, a few tears and a good sense of humor will get you there. At the end of the day humanity comes first. one must thrive to never ever lose their humanity, never forget the basics. Your age and gender really should not be a hindrance to your dreams and goals. Excellence will always reign supreme."
And her vision for African women and girls? She told Revolt for Her that, "I dream of an Africa where we are not "graded" on our ability to cook nshima on a fire but rather are given a fair chance to achieve our goals using our God-given abilities. An Africa where we no longer have to feel the need for validation through marital status. We must normalize feminine excellence to a point that our gender is no longer an issue to be considered. Our African heritage unequivocally is a part of us and I strongly believe we can thrive while embracing "ubuntu" without it impeding one's ability to soar high."
"There is strength in these curves, intelligence in our curls, innovation in our delicate frames!"