"A Beacon of Hope and Light in This Ever-darkening World "
Good morning everyone. My name is Barbara Hachipuka Banda. I am a 31-year-old young woman from Zambia. For those of you that don’t know where that is, it is a small country in the Southern part of Africa.
From a very young age, I always had a vision and a determination to become someone great, someone that would change the world. My idols were people like Nelson Mandela, Wangari Mathi, Mahatma Gandhi, and so many more.
I think that this positivity and determination was because of my parents. I grew up in a house where my parents, beyond the 4 children that they had, took into our home, educated, raised and cared for over 20 other cousins and relatives that had lost their parents or had parents that could not afford to put their children through school.
My father was also an influential man in society that focused his time and attention on bringing positive political change to Zambia. My mother was a supportive, strong woman who reinforced my father’s vision but also created her own ideas and path that concentrated on empowering rural women because she believed that in order to truly achieve development, women must be part of the solution.
So now you can understand when I say that I am an activist, a visionary determined to change the world. Like all things that young people do, my vision was not only restricted to Zambia but also to the rest of Africa. It naturally runs through my veins like cascading water in a waterfall.
In 2004 I found the opportunity to achieve my dream when I was selected by the UNDP and the Global Peace Initiative of Women to be part of the Millennium Development Goal Youth Movement in Africa. In September 2004, I came to Japan for the first time to participate in the Asia-Pacific Youth Summit in Hiroshima, where I met Shumei and discovered Shumei Natural Agriculture.
As I returned to my country, I requested Shumei International to come to Zambia to empower the rural small-scale women farmers. To date the small pilot project that begun in 2005 with 1000 small scale women farmers in one part of Zambia is now an established and registered NGO called Natural Agriculture Development Program Zambia (NADPZ) with over 6000 small-scale rural women farmers in three parts of Zambia, which are Mbabala, Pemba and Kalomo.
So now you know how big my dreams are and how excited and determined I have always been. What I haven’t told you is the many up hill battles I have faced and the nights I have spent re-evaluating myself as a leader and a visionary. I have spent a lot of time wondering why I have not thrown in the towel and tossed my toys out of the cot and given up? After all, I am young. I can stop all this and start working in a PR or marketing firm because I am a journalist by profession, where the money is good and there is certainly less stress.
The reason why I didn’t give up is not only because I am optimistic and determination runs through my veins, but also because I have a great and patient teacher in Sensei Alan Imai and because my partners in Shumei have been very supportive. Shumei’s philosophy and way of life and Mesishusama’s teachings have been a beacon of hope and light in this ever-darkening world.
I am only 31 but I have experienced a lot of great losses in my life: my mother died in a car accident when I was 20 years old; my sister died from kidney failure when I was 24; and recently Alexander, my 2 year old baby boy, suddenly passed away. During all this grief, especially over the unexpected departure of my son, Mokichi Okada’s life story has been a constant reminder for me to not give up and to live a life of light and not let the darkness of the world consume me.
So why do I want to become a Shumei member? It is because I know in my heart and mind how the world should be – a UTOPIA full of kindness, love and interconnectedness where one man’s burden is a whole community’s burden to share and his achievement is a whole community’s achievement to rejoice in; a world that is full of hope, optimism and yearning for more of life, not a fading uncertainty about what the world will be 50 years from now.
Shumei philosophy is a guiding light in my very dark world. It is also a beckon of hope and love to the thousands of Natural Agriculture women farmers in Zambia that have managed to feed their families even one meal a day after a bad rain season, while others are struggling.