After having a good cry with Carol, talking to Mwenya, a taller woman with high cheekbones and dark brown skin, is easy. There are no tears – only laughter, strength and a determined confidence to be a role model for other Zambian women.
Mwenya has worked as a supervisor for the Central Bank of Zambia for the past 12 years. Her job is very demanding, but provides a comfortable salary of £2,500 per month in addition to allowances for travel, education and utilities. She chose to pursue an MBA to increase her marketability in the private sector. “I don’t want to be a Central Banker for the rest of my life. I need to branch out and do something for myself,” she says, suggesting that she might join her partner Richard in his consulting business or possibly open a small orphanage.
She had considered getting an MBA previously, but something always stopped her. “There’d be a major change at the office, or my children were changing schools,” she says. “But I told myself, come year 2000 I just had to do it.” Although she was offered a place at the University of Zambia, she chose to come to Cardiff’s one-year programme for a more globally diverse education.
“I started telling the kids I wanted to do this about five years ago, and it became a joke,” she says. “It was like, ‘Oh Mom, that’s what you said last year.’” When they realised she was actually going, the joking ended. “They couldn’t understand why I had to go away because I still had another degree and a good job. Initially it was very difficult for everybody.”
To make things easier for Richard, whose work keeps him very busy, they chose to send the three children to boarding schools at a total cost of over £5,000 for the year. Gamphani, 13, was already planning to attend a residential school, so the separation was less disruptive for him. Mwansa, 10, and Lukonde, 8, who attend a different school that sends them home on the weekends, weren’t happy at first. “They rebelled against it, but they’re really pampered at school. Now they don’t want to come home.”
Although Mwenya knows her kids miss her, she does not worry much about them. “They’d have probably missed me more if they’d been at home,” she says. “I’m happy because I know that they like their schools, and Richard gives them a lot of support. He doesn’t give them a reason to start missing me.”