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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border