Zambia’s Medical Doctor and Social Innovator

A Young Woman’s Dream to Impact One Million Young Women

Natasha is a passionate young innovator, influencer and disruptor. She believes that women are a resource which is severely undervalued and whose potential remains unexploited. The trained medical doctor and social innovator is thus committed to changing the narrative of women.  Her vision is to empower one million women and girls by 2022. Her strategies for achieving this objective include self-development, economic empowerment, and reproductive health.   She cofounded a nonprofit organization called Copper Rose Zambia (Copper Rose) with a colleague of her cofounder Faith Kaoma.  The name draws inspiration from copper, the mainstay of the Zambian economy. The organization also believes that every woman is a ‘rose’. The organization seeks to inspire women to realize their worth and beauty as ‘copper roses’. Natasha is driven by the belief that women can be all they want to be. Copper Rose therefore reminds women of their capabilities. Natasha believes that women are a resource which has been undervalued. She is concerned by the fact that although Zambia has over 50% of women in its population, women are under- represented in the corporate, business, social, or public sectors. She attributes this phenomenon to gender stereotyping which often prescribes what women can or cannot do. Natasha also concedes that she herself has experienced gender stereotyping in her life. She cites a time in her professional development when she was deciding what to study at university. At that time some members of her family wanted her to study the arts and humanities whereas her true passions were science and math. Several members of her family would give her a list of people, most of whom were males, who had studied the sciences but were not successful. She faced similar situations of stereotyping while in medical school as well. While making the rounds in the hospital, Natasha would go with a male nurse who would often be assumed to be the doctor and not her. Thus, one of the factors that led to her establish Copper Rose was her desire to do something about gender disparities

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Copper Rose is thus involved in a variety of thematic areas. These include sexual reproductive health, maternal and child health, women economic empowerment, and menstrual health.  Natasha believes in the power of choices. She believes that the choices people make shape their destinies. As such, Copper Rose works to inspire women to make choices about their lives. Natasha has a particularly keen interest in menstrual health management. She developed this interest while in high school. She noticed that most women lacked information about their menstrual health. Much of the work that she and her team at Copper Rose is involved in is in this area. Working in this space has not been easy however.

Natasha has had to confront settled cultural barriers in her work as menstrual health was and still is a culturally sensitive subject in Zambia. It is also a big problem which goes unnoticed. In Zambia about 81% of young girls in school have no access to good menstrual protection. This leads the young girls to miss school frequently. Natasha thus believes that menstrual hygiene management is a secret which is kept in plain sight. Her organization thus teaches young girls about menstrual health and distributes sanitary pads to them. The organization also teaches girls to make reusable and washable sanitary napkins. So even though the subject is a culturally sensitive one, Natasha has stayed the course and kept on advocating for improved menstrual health among young girls and women.

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Her advocacy work has included making regular appearances in the media talking about menstrual health. Even though this has been an uncomfortable task, Natasha reckons that it has to be done given the scale of the problem.  She therefore encourages young women to step out and get out their shells, even it means being uncomfortable. She also encourages young people to stay focused and to play for the long term in achieving their long-term goals

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Looking forward, Natasha envisions a day when society will stop celebrating women who make it to leadership positions as that would have become the norm. She looks forward to a time when women leadership and achievement will not be celebrated because it would have become normalized. Natasha’s groundbreaking work has won her international recognitions. In 2017 she won the Queen’s Young Leaders Award. Earlier in 2016 she had also been nominated for the Nelson Mandela-Gracia Machel Youth Activism Award. She is also a member of the Royal Commonwealth Society. Natasha has also worked as the Country Coordinator for the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP).