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One hundred of Zambia’s most influential and dynamic women met in Lusaka last week to share their experiences of the opportunities and challenges of being a woman in today’s society.

Kagem Mining chairman William B Nyirenda (centre) with  CNBC presenter Gugulethu Mfuphi with panellist of the CNBC Leading Women's Debate and Kagem representatives

Kagem Mining chairman William B Nyirenda (centre) with CNBC presenter Gugulethu Mfuphi with panellist of the CNBC Leading Women’s Debate and Kagem representatives

The high-flying contributors were taking part in the televised CNBC Leading Women’s Debate, sponsored by gemstone company Gemfields Plc, with panellists Bank of Zambia Deputy Governor Dr Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula, the CEO of Java Foods Monica Musonda, and Chief Programmes Officer for the Zambia National Commission for UNESCO Brenda Muntemba.

The hour-long debate, hosted by CNBC presenter Gugulethu Mfuphi, will be broadcast on CNBC Africa on Monday, March 31 at 14hrs.

The fast-paced discussion covered mentorship and inspiring the next generation; stimulating employment and entrepreneurship for women; striking a balance between career and family; and conquering the ‘Old Boys’ Club’.

Mrs Kankasa-Mabula said: “We need affirmative action, but it should not be tokenism. Part of it is breaking down the mindset of men and showing we can do it. We are bringing a lot of value to the table as women; not trying to be men. By being professional, hardworking and focused we are making our own case.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Mrs Musonda, who said: “As you go up the ladder there are fewer and fewer women; but there is also a lot of positive energy.”

“Your network is your net worth,” she told the audience.

And Ms Muntemba said: “We start with women speaking with their minds; women who can talk with a pen and her intellect. We have to remain feminine while doing a man’s job; you grow a thick skin. A woman has to work smarter hours, but when God wants to make a difference He will choose a woman.”

“You have got to have a dream and go for it – you are someone, so don’t let anyone stop you,” she added.

In opening the debate, Kagem Mining chairman William B. Nyirenda told participants: “Rather as you yourselves juggle careers, family and other interests, so Gemfields and Kagem strive to balance different interests: we are at the interface between mining and marketing; between exploration and ethics. Like you, we also aim to generate employment for local people and encourage entrepreneurship – something that is really important to us.”

London-listed Gemfields owns 75 per cent of Kagem Mining – which operates the world’s largest emerald mine, in Lufwanyama District – in partnership with the Zambian government.

Mr Nyirenda outlined the company’s US$1 million investment in projects in Lufwanyama District over the next two years, which include construction of a US$250,000 four-ward building at Nkana Clinic and add three nurses’ accommodation blocks, turning the facility into a “mini-hospital”, along with a US$700,000 new higher secondary school at Chapula.

“In our own small way, we hope to inspire the next generation,” he said.

Gemfields and Kagem are at the forefront of developing the international market for Zambian emeralds by investing in exploration, mining, sales and marketing in order to develop a competitive, reliable and trusted source of ethically produced gemstones that buyers can trust.