Princess fired up by a humanitarian cause

Paul Vallely meets an aid worker whose parallel insights into the worlds of privilege and poverty have equipped her to monitor the impact of the West's policies on the poor

THERE are some things you have to keep quiet about if you are an aid worker. Like the fact that you are a princess. And not a patron of Save the Children kind of aid worker, but one who spends most days bumping up and down in the back of a pick-up truck for nine hours.

When 28-year-old Mulima Kufekisa Akapelwa returns to her homeland in Zambia the Lozi people call her Bomukwae, which means princess. Mulima, who arrives in Birmingham today for the G8 summit, is mildly embarrassed by the fact.

It is true, she admits, that her grandfather was heir to the paramount chiefdom of an empire which stretched hundreds of miles from the border with Angola to the Copper Belt near the Congo. But her father was educated in the colonial era by Presbyterian missionaries and subsequently became, more prosaically, a veterinary officer.

More prosaically, Mulima feels. Which perhaps explains why she has moved into the field of aid and development. She heads a project sponsored by Zambia's Catholic bishops, funded from the United Kingdom by the Catholic aid agency Cafod, to monitor the effect of Third World debt on ordinary people.

It has been a considerable personal journey. The Lozi royal family is still a powerful, privileged and educated elite. It still exercises a residuum of its traditional judicial role. Mulima's upbringing was sheltered. Though her father's work took the family away from the homeland to Livingstone, where she was born, not far from Victoria Falls, she was sent to the best local school. When she went to university in Lusaka her parents refused to allow her to work during the periods in which her faculty was closed by funding cuts or during the riots provoked when subsidies on the basic food stuffs were cut at the behest of the International Monetary Fund.

It was the field work for her social sciences degree which changed everything. "We were taken off to the rural areas to collect data. Our supervisor would come every two or three weeks to collect our results and bring us vegetables." The life of the ordinary people came as a shock to the princess and her fellow students. After a further degree at Oxford, Mulima returned to Zambia. Her parallel insights into the worlds of privilege and poverty have brought her out of the world of aid into the more political arena of examining how the policies of the Western nations impact adversely on the world's poor.

"To find the money to repay the debts the rich world has forced on us to restructure our economy. Fees have been introduced in health services and the result is an almost doubling of deaths among children under five," she said. "Education has effectively been privatised, driving out large numbers of pupils - particularly girls. Today only half of all Zambian children go to school."

But it is more than that. "The IMF policies of structural adjustment are taking a heavy toll among the poorest people," she said. "Privatisation has improved services in some cases. But... it is not a panacea. It has reduced poor farmers' ability to get their crops to market. And instead of delivering the promised foreign investment it has resulted in the asset- stripping of many public-owned businesses or their closure to make way for the goods of the foreign rivals who bought them."

She will say as much to the thousands of activists who will assemble in Birmingham this afternoon to throw a human chain around world leaders at the G8 summit which has Third World debt on its agenda.

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

C#.NET Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, WPF, WCF, ASP.NET, Prism...

Day In a Page

Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband