By Heather Walker
ROME — Musamba Mubanga has recently joined the world headquarters of Caritas Internationalis in Rome. As a senior advocacy officer, she will coordinate and facilitate Caritas’ work on integral ecology, food security, climate change, water, biodiversity and conflict.
Jumping right into the action in her first few weeks on the job, she served as a speaker for a series of Caritas webinars, called “Caritas Celebrates Women,” and presented on the theme “Women as Builders of Solidarity: Caring for the Poor and for Our Common Home” March 29.
Mubanga’s talk drew from her experience of more than seven years as a development analyst with Caritas Zambia in the areas of policy and community-related issues.
Upon arriving from Zambia, her home country, Mubanga spent her first month at The Lay Centre while settling into life in Rome.
“So far, all is going well,” Mubanga said. “I am happy that The Lay Centre was the first stop, although I was a little skeptical to begin with. But now a month later, I feel blessed to have been part of this amazing community.”
Mubanga spoke of the warm welcome she received from The Lay Centre’s “super amazing house community,” as well as the management team.
“The centre was definitely a good and warm place for me to be, as I got over the challenges of moving to a new country so far away from home,” she said. “I would come back again and again for this experience.”
Before moving to Rome, Mubanga worked at Caritas Zambia as a livelihoods and climate change specialist, after completing her bachelor’s degree in agriculture science — not her first choice of study, she stressed — at the University of Zambia.
In this role, she worked with communities and farmers to understand “in-depth their livelihood sources and how climate change is impacting their many different sources of livelihood,” she said.
It was here that she discovered her “great passion” for development work and “for helping find solutions through many different advocacy initiatives,” she said.
“I was really excited to learn everything on how to build things and solve complex problems on livelihoods,” she said.
After only a few months in that role, she “was overjoyed with the amazing work in the communities and also struck by the many gaps in natural resource governance and management, which needed advocacy interventions.”
“This made me believe that development work — and in Church circles — is perfect for me,” she added.
In 2015, she began her master’s in environment management to enhance her knowledge and skills on climate change. The theme of her thesis was “Integrating Sustainable Livelihoods in Environmental and Social Assessments.”
Working for Caritas Zambia was personally fulfilling and “an opportunity that I can say was God’s grace,” she said.
It was “heart-warming to visit a community member who tells you how, through your interventions, their household food and income security has improved, and how they are now able to diversify their livelihoods to respond to the climate crisis,” she added.
Mubanga said the practical application of Catholic Social Teaching in development work also contributed to her love for her work.
“This great experience gave me the insight I needed to make a decision about my career focus and ultimately encouraged me be the development analysist I am today,” she said.
“I look forward to an opportunity now to contribute at the global level by sharing my experience from the field,” she added.
Mubanga said she believes the situation for women in the world is slowly improving as regards discrimination against women and their exclusion from positions of responsibility and leadership. She, too, has experienced discrimination in the past, she said.
“There is a lot that needs to be done, as women are still considered less for certain leadership roles and they are also not given certain responsibilities just because they are female,” she said.
Her advice to young women is to “rise up to the challenge, always push yourself to be as good as a man, challenge yourself to be a better version of yourself, based on your passion.”
If a woman stays in her comfort zone, “it’s difficult to make an impact; it is important to push boundaries,” she said.
“Every woman has a leadership blind spot,” a particular skill or gift hidden within, said Mubanga. “It is important to identify it and share it with society.”
Photo courtesy Musamba Mubanga