Interview with Thasiyana Mwandila – Vice President, Humanists & Atheists of Zambia

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Thasiyana Mwandila is the Vice President of the Humanists & Atheists of Zambia. Here we talk about her life, work, and views.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is family background, e.g., geography, culture, language, and religion or lack thereof? 

Thasiyana Mwandila: Zambian, our tribe is Tumbuka, Village Lundazi. Both my parents are Tumbuka, by traditional customs. My family is largely Catholic with a few Jehovah’s Qitnesses.

Jacobsen: How was early life as a child and adolescent in school and in the community in terms of questioning faith and learning about other ways of thinking apart from tradition and religion?

Mwandila: Growing up, my parents were busy. Both with new careers and working extremely hard. I spent most of my days at a local library. Reading mostly about Darwinism and the science behind natural disasters. That and my parents never forced religion down my throat. I never really started to question religion, because I never knew that option existed, until I got to high school and started to take literature and world history. In literature I read the concubine, things fall apart, river between, tongue of the dumb and house boy; by Elechi Amadi, Chinui Achebe, Ngugi Wathiogo, Dominic Mulaisho and Ferdinand Oyono, respectively. What struck me about these stories is that God never really cared about the weak, it looks like the cruel always triumph, that, and that a woman was nothing without her god or her man. Later during my history lessons, it became apparent that whenever God arrived to save people in history death would soon follow. My history teacher was also a strong pan African, who encouraged critical thinking. I left high school a skeptic, and guilty, because I had started to question my heavenly father. Did I mention I was at an all-girls catholic school?

Jacobsen: How are the dynamics of gender equality and women in Zambia? How does this play into the cultural reactions to humanism and atheism in Zambia?

Mwandila: In opinion, people in the average Zambian society have some sort of bipolar disorder, when it comes to culture and gender equality. While a few claim to be progressive and want equality, they still strongly believe culturally a woman is beneath her husband. While equality is slowing sipping into the workplace. Women are still very much regarded as the weaker component. So the “cultural” tendencies, especially because bride price, that seem to justify the owning of women or their position as a commodity to be possessed, still greatly affect the idea of equality in many settings. It’s demeaning. From my experience, most people hold the idea that without a god you can not be moral. So being an atheist in the Christian nation is not welcome. Even the idea of ubuntu “humanism” will not resonate when it comes under the banner of atheism. Culturally most of our traditions have been usurped by Christian customs and dogma, so you can imagine the reaction to an atheist point of view in a country that believes god is the only way

Jacobsen: As the Vice President of Humanists & Atheists of Zambia, what tasks and responsibilities come with the position? How does this position – and this organization – provide a basis for better livelihoods of women and men freethinkers in Zambia, i.e., a space for improvements in rights for those without a formal religion?

Mwandila: You could say I am the voice of reason. (Lol. Joke.) 

Currently, as HAZ, our goal is to command a presence a call that has opposing points of view and that are actively asking questions or have been questioning the status quo. Like many people out there when we begin to question we think we are alone. That shouldn’t be the case for everyone. Our goal is to make it known that we are here we are different, and will be heard. Regardless of gender, sex, affiliation etc No one should be scared or be ashamed for having a different point of view.

And my role (due to the fact that I am an open atheist) is to help identify and sort assure groups or individuals who are seeking. And just be the connection between outside groups and HAZ. 

Jacobsen: How can people become involved with the Humanists & Atheists of Zambia? How can they support the Humanists & Atheists of Zambia? 

Mwandila: They can reach out to us on our Facebook page. We are working on our website. Which will have future plans and any endeavours. Since our organization is fairly new. We are open to any progressive ideas and advice. 

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Thasiyana.

Mwandila: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-booksfree or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular AllianceCentre for Inquiry CanadaKelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du QuébecAtheist FreethinkersCentral Ontario Humanist AssociationComox Valley HumanistsGrey Bruce HumanistsHalton-Peel Humanist CommunityHamilton HumanistsHumanist Association of LondonHumanist Association of OttawaHumanist Association of TorontoHumanists, Atheists and Agnostics of ManitobaOntario Humanist SocietySecular Connextions SeculaireSecular Humanists in CalgarySociety of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph)Thunder Bay HumanistsToronto OasisVictoria Secular Humanist Association.

Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an AgnostikerAmerican Atheists,American Humanist AssociationAssociação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and AgnosticsAtheist Alliance InternationalAtheist Alliance of AmericaAtheist CentreAtheist Foundation of AustraliaThe Brights MovementCenter for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist IrelandCamp Quest, Inc.Council for Secular HumanismDe Vrije GedachteEuropean Humanist FederationFederation of Indian Rationalist AssociationsFoundation Beyond BeliefFreedom From Religion FoundationHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist InternationalHumanist Association of GermanyHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist Society of ScotlandHumanists UKHumanisterna/Humanists SwedenInternet InfidelsInternational League of Non-Religious and AtheistsJames Randi Educational FoundationLeague of Militant AtheistsMilitary Association of Atheists and FreethinkersNational Secular SocietyRationalist InternationalRecovering From ReligionReligion News ServiceSecular Coalition for AmericaSecular Student AllianceThe Clergy ProjectThe Rational Response SquadThe Satanic TempleThe Sunday AssemblyUnited Coalition of ReasonUnion of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

Photo by Atlas Green on Unsplash

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