About 15 women in their 20’s and 30’s in this group – there are 17,000 members all told. Fortunately for us the affair was attended by the Presidents’ wives from Zambia and Namibia, honoring the theme of “Traditional Values in Marriage.”
It was a splendid afternoon with the First Ladies staying the entire 4 hours!
We got a chance to sample different local dishes…interesting – at the beginning of the buffet line is a jug of hot water and soap and everyone must wash first. Throughout we were entertained by a group of 18 women, representing a variety of the 72 tribes/languages in Zambia, who drummed, danced and left us laughing and clapping with joy at their storytelling. Even though they spoke in Bemba, Leya, Njanya and Tonga, we were frequently able to appreciate the messages because of their style of dancing, facial and hand gestures and fabulous “attitudes!” Women wrap a scarf or material around their hips as an indication that they want to dance…as demonstrated most ably by the First Lady of Zambia. Some of the livelier performances offered messages such as: don’t let your sisters and sisters-in-law into your bedrooms, keep your business to yourself; and, all parts of your body can represent peace but when it comes to sex and “there” [on a female] there’s usually war; or, an important part of relationships is knowing how to “dance” [using the hips and pelvis] with your man, etc.
As delightful as that was, there was still the unexpected opportunity to sit in on a “traditional” marriage counseling session – an “Embusa”- given to young woman beginning at the age of 13. The “advisor” [one of the older women, highly respected] used pictures drawn on paper spread throughout the large hut [assembly room] and wooden carvings to convey her messages. The overriding themes were pleasing the man, submission, health, hygiene, spacing the birth of your children, AIDS, sharing your wealth, and keeping your home intact. Still, the messages emphasized the importance of avoiding those traditions demeaning to women, such as…the sexual cleansing of widows [widows are expected to have sexual intercourse with the youngest male of the dead husband’s tribe in order to cleanse the woman in preparation for her future life]. The problem is that most of these designated young men have AIDS and the women are now forced to flee to safe locations in order to protect themselves and insure their lives so their children do not grow up as orphans.
Twalumba and machomo bwange
[Thank you and good night],
Kelly, Joyceann, Bernice and Marilyn