Bridging Gender Disparity through Art in Zambia

Hadassah Louis:

We are 200 years away from bringing the existing gender disparity (UN).

The year 2018 has been pivotal in the evolution of women’s rights with global movements such as Time’s Up and Time Is Now social movements that kicked off the year. And it’s only March. The gender gap is evident in the arts and so on International Women’s Day, Zambia’s Ultra Art Gallery at Garden City Mall in Lusaka hosted a female-led art show themed “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives.”

Debbie Mwema and her art

Safety First for Girls (SAFIGI) Director Debbie Mwema, an architect, and a self-taught painter was among the artists at the opening event, running from March 8 to 22.  The gallery brought Zambian female artists to celebrate the socio-economic, cultural and political progress of rural and urban activists.

Art is universal and has to paint a picture of the society we live in. The existing gender gap in the field of art is representative of our communities. For women’s voices to be heard, more female artists and curators need to receive more representation and a spotlight on their work.

This showcasing of women’s art was also an invitation for female artists to diversify by creating various forms of artwork including male dominated scenes like sculptures and woodwork.

Director at SAFIGI, Debbie displayed two of her paintings in the art gallery.



The first piece represents a girl of African heritage donning her full natural hair. Afro hair has remained controversial in our society and is oft translated to be political or a form of rebellion. In this painting, Debbie portrays an African girl who is more than just her hair and skin color.





The second piece she is showcasing is an original piece fueled by her own imagination. Through the layering of colors, the rose on the side represents control while the starry sky shows an infinite – the infinite that can be our imagination. She shares more of her paintings and architecture work here.



SAFIGIs student member, Tenaj Barraka who helped launch a SAFIGI club at a girls boarding school was also present at the gallery to support women in art. She is a digital artist from Zambia.

Debbie’s art in the gallery is a representation of more than just her paintings. She is an embodiment of a young woman working steadily to bridge the gap and break glass ceilings by being a Director of SAFIGI; an Artist; and an Architect. She proves that we as women can be as diverse as we want.

Safety First for Girls is committed to ensuring girls are seen and heard. We have the power to dictate our future and make sure when we look at art, we see a true reflection of ourselves as women.

Hadassah is a freelancer in Communication Media and Non-Profit Management. She is Founder and Project Manager of SAFIGI Outreach Foundation in Zambia, a youth-led volunteer organization working to advance safety for girls via Safety Education.

Her goal in life is to attain overall freedom and ultimately be a delegate for peace and conflict resolution. When she is not overwhelmed with ever impending deadlines, she can be found working on her manuscript, or taking pictures for her blog []. She loves practicing healthy living and volunteering for worthy causes.



SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd is a not for profit organization based in Zambia with a vision to raise a generation where girls are empowered, equipped and fulfilled in every aspect of their life, for the development of the entire world. To know more about SAFIGI’s goals and activities, visit




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