“I personally believe that if you empower a woman or a girl, then you have empowered the home, you have empowered the country, you have empowered a world at large.”
From the crowded streets of Lusaka to the most remote villages, Damaless Mukaka knows how a personal connection can make choice possible for women and girls.
Sometimes, clients can find her in a booth at a lively festival, providing information to young people in a friendly, accessible way. MSI Zambia works to create spaces where young people feel comfortable asking about contraception, and Damaless has a unique rapport with young clients.
While they talk through each girls’ options, she asks them about their dreams and hopes for the future.
“I’m so proud of them, because I want them to become something for this nation. If someone wants to be a doctor, I would love to see that she makes it. Even if I am not there, but my spirit will connect, and wherever they go, they’ll say, ‘There was this woman who made me to be like this.’ That’s my goal.”
Other days, Damaless’ work takes her away from the city and out to the more remote villages. Traditional attitudes have kept some women from accessing contraception—but Damaless and her team are working to change that.
“Some places are difficult to get to. These are the villages. There, there’s some traditional beliefs, there’s some taboo, so sometimes it becomes controversial. But nowadays, women are changing, because they are seeing the importance of family planning. So, if we are going to a certain area, we train all the key leaders. The teachers, even the chief, will be told why family planning is important in their area.”
When doing outreach in rural villages, Damaless introduces contraception in a fun, accessible way. “There’s a song that I came up with which talks about family planning. Just to make it live, and to make them free to be able to ask. That’s how I reach them.”
Damaless explains how contraception can help clients achieve their hopes for their families. Protected from unwanted pregnancies, they can provide an education to the children they already have.
“A lot of people, even in the villages, in the remote villages, they respect education. So, they understand that it’s better to have a good number of children that you can take to school. They are able to live a better life in their own way.”
Damaless is passionate about bringing choice to women and girls. She knows that when they can control their own bodies, they’re set on a path to a brighter future. She hopes her work can help them overcome challenges to achieve their dreams.
“We really need to instill something in these young girls. We really need to change their mindset so that even if things are tough, they can just say I’ll make it, I’ll be there.”