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September 1, 2014, 1:33 am

Zambia journalist talks politics, women’s rights

The International Visitors Council (IVC) of Philadelphia is hosting eight young African leaders from Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia as part of the Mentoring Partnership for Young African Leaders. Through this engagement, The African Bureau of the U.S. Department of State, along with the Meridian International Center, Washington, D.C., will bring 62 young African leaders for leadership training and networking opportunities on June 26.

Among them is 24-year-old Pennifer Sikainda, who is a driving force of political engagement and social entrepreneurship in her Zambian community. She will travel to different cities, and talk with administrators from the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr about her developing organization Uplift the Girls. This nonprofit will have personal and skills development programs for young women and girls.

Sikainda is the senior business reporter of Muvi Television — Zambia’s first private television station whose primary reporting focus is local news. While running the business desk at the station’s headquarters in Lusaka, the county’s capital, Sikainda covers economic stories from public and private sectors and contributes political and environmental stories.

“I’ve realized that I can make a difference in my community in the most simple way,” Sikainda said.

As lead anchor at the station, she interviewed Secretary Hillary Clinton. She also speaks four languages and has a keen understanding and passion for politics.

“For me, issues of legislation that deal with the people interest me the most,” Sikainda said. “I look at social issues, matters that deal with social protection, and what are the leaders doing about making sure everyone has access to good healthcare, and issues of education.”

The Patriotic Front, lead by Michael Sata, currently spearheads the multi-party system in Zambia. There are approximately 20 registered parties. In 1990, there was advocacy for a multi-party democracy — which was previously banned by the one-party system of the United National Independence Party. Through this movement, Sikainda said there have been an increased number of political players.

“Before last year’s election, they had been really actively advocating for better standards of living for the people,” Sikainda said. “The expectations right now of the people are really high, because they are aware of many of the promises that came with the election. It’s only eight months down the road and the issues of job creation, one of the main highlights of the campaigns, is something that is [important].”

As a member of the press, Sikainda said she has seen a growing trend. Similar to America, Zambian people are becoming more politically engaged through social media, pop culture, creating music based on campaign issues, and access to the Internet.

“Social media is really becoming big for discussions on whatever is happening in the country, be it current affairs or anything else,” Sikainda said.

Currently, there is a bill being drafted that will provide access of information and free media.

“I think the election last year was one of those key highlights where you notice that people wanted information,” Sikainda said. “[They] hunger for information to the extent that during the election process, we had a situation where the previous government was actually telling us not to publish or continue to give results when we got them. We had live updates from the tally center and we were following the activities. It seemed to have angered some people. They wanted the information to be released when they wanted. But it turned out that the people were able to notice when we had relatively reduced the updates. If something that is being propagandized by some officials, then it’s better we take action so people can know that we want to drive this information, because we need to know what is happening.”

And when she isn’t covering breaking news, this young leader is very passionate about helping young women.

“I would like to help other female young Zambians to really see how best they can use their talents,” Sikainda said. “If they are not able to identify them, I would like to work with professionals who can help them do that so that they can know how to use what is in themselves. I would like to put into place skill centers that will see a number of girls converge, and we can have motivational talks and hands-on skills and developmental activities that will focus on helping the people to be able to fend for themselves and be self-sufficient.”