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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test