By MARTIN MUSUNKA -
FIRST Lady Esther Lungu has paid tribute to First Quantum Minerals and Kalumbila Minerals Limited for their transformational community programmes which have raised standards of living in Solwezi and Kalumbila districts.
The First Lady on a recent tour of North-Western Province also strongly spoke out against child marriage calling it a human rights violation that robs girls of their right to health, adding that it hampers their aspirations for a better education.
She mentioned that President Lungu also despised activities that disadvantaged women and girls and was keen to create an enabling environment that would enhance gender equality and empower them.
Speaking during the First Quantum Minerals (FQM) Girls Mentorship camp at Trident College in Solwezi, on her first official visit to the region, she said child marriage and early pregnancies were harmful practices which should be stopped at all costs.
She noted that Government and other stakeholders were taking measures to discourage child marriage and early pregnancies by raising awareness of the adverse consequences on girls’ lives.
“This is why I readily accepted to come to this very important event, because running programmes that provide girls with viable alternatives to marriage and working towards more effective enforcement of existing laws that condemn child marriage is inevitable,” she said.
The First Lady praised FQM for bringing together girls from all over the province for training in survival skills, health education and the promotion of formal education. The empowerment of women and girls meant that the quality of life for everyone else was being raised.
“This is because when women lead, they not only lead businesses, they lead in their community, they fight for their children and they give a voice to issues that are important to our collective future like education and health care,” she said amid applause from the participants and invited guests.
Ms Lungu told the 103 graduates that they were living in an era of change that would take them to a level which some of their teachers and parents could never have imagined. She urged them to take advantage of the opportunity and pursue various careers that would help build a stronger, healthier and more prosperous nation.
The First Lady paid glowing tribute to FQM for organising the third mentorship camp despite existing economic challenges. “The commitment you have shown continues to impress all who see the work that you are doing.”
FQM Programmes and Projects Advisor Gertrude Musunka said the mining company conceived the package of activities for the girls with the prime aim of reducing the drop-out rate among school-girls.
She said FQM was committed to the improvement of the overall social, health and economic status of the girls and the communities in Solwezi and Kalumbila districts. The company was proud that a total of 1,700 girls were reached with sexual reproduction health messages, with parents actively participating in meetings held in all target communities.
The ceremony was attended by North-Western Pronve Minister Dawson Kafwaya, Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga, FQM Country Manager Kingsley Chinkuli, Kansanshi Mining Plc Assistant General Manager Meiring Burger, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Bruce Lewis and Public Relations Manager Godfrey Msiska, who was also director of ceremonies.
Senior Chief Musele and Chief Mumena were also in attendance.
Later, the First Lady went on a tour of Kalumbila District where she advised resettled residents to exercise patience in airing grievances about their livelihood in the district where FQM has set up a world-class mining company.
Following their incessant complaints to her, Lungu said during her tour of Kalumbila Minerals Limited and the surrounding areas that it was important that the local residents exercised restraint in airing their grievances.
The residents complained of drawing water from the boreholes sunk by FQM, which they claimed had impurities and worried that they may contract diseases by drawing drinking dirty water.
Trident Foundation community relations coordinator Alex Mapapayi in response said the mining company had taken water samples to the laboratory and the results showed that the water had no impurities that could lead to diseases.
He however, said the company would further investigate issues pertaining to water.
Ms Lungu advised the residents to follow procedure in complaining and assured that the mining company would attend to them. They also complained that they had been displaced and did not have alternative farming area.
“You have the right to raise complaints, but you should engage the mining company so that a solution could be found. The mining company is making a difference to the locals here and the country at large. In that vein, you should make sure that you restrain yourselves as you complain so that a solution is found. I have heard your complaints, some of which I will deliver to the President while the provincial minister will also handle others,” Ms Lungu said.
She added that it was practically impossible to have all issues resolved at once and that it may take some time for some difficulties to be resolved.
Going by what she had seen in Kalumbila, she was convinced that the people had better living standards than some of the areas she had been to, for which Kalumbila Mine should be commended.
“I have been to more than six provinces so far, and the kind of life people lead in some areas cannot be compared to the way you are living here. We must therefore commend Kalumbila Mine for the good job they are doing,” Ms Lungu said.
Lungu was quick to urge the residents to safeguard and treat the investment in the area with jealousy as Kalumbila Minerals Limited was doing well for the communities and the country through job creation and corporate social responsibility activities.
The First Lady earlier held a meeting with Kalumbila Minerals Limited management in the boardroom where the mine’s General Manager Damien Marantelli briefed her on various activities at the giant mining company. She said she was overwhelmed with the developments in the area.
Ms Lungu said as Kalumbila Minerals Limited was performing wonders for the communities and the country at large, the locals need always engage the mine and other stakeholders to sustain a win-win situation.- feature courtesy of SUMA SYSTEMS.