Revealing the person and the process behind Development Dynamite Lombe Tembo.
Who is Lombe Tembo?
I am a 26 year old young woman who is an economist by profession and I am a member and supporter of several youth-led initiatives that focus on the meaningful inclusion of young people in development processes as well as governance within their countries.
I work with various organisations in different roles including :
- The Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team
- I am a Big Idea Accountability Advocate
- Action/2015 Coordinator for Restless Development Zambia,
- Chairperson of the Committee of Governance and Transparency under the African Youth Movement,
- Assistant Executive Director of the Zambian Association of Literacy
- A member of the Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network.
In addition to this, I have been a panelist, speaker and facilitator at several international events such as the 69th United Nations General Assembly, the Global Youth Forum on Youth Policies and the Beyond2015 Copenhagen CSO Forum to mention a few.
Where did all this start?
You may not believe it but I was a wallflower growing up. I was that one painfully shy child in the background, with maybe a friend or two at a time if people eventually realise I am not part of the furniture. In my late teen years, I started to seriously ask myself what I wanted to do with my life. When people would say “Lombe will graduate from school and get a good job” I just did not get the fuss. I wanted to do something meaningful and help people. I found myself becoming curious about all this development talk that was going around and what it had to do with me until I decided to start volunteering my time just to learn more from other people who were in a better position to answer my questions.
So you pretty much had it all set then as a teenager you figured out what you were interested in, started volunteering and its been as easy rise for you then. Were there any challenges at all and how did you navigate them?
That could not be further from the truth actually. Even though I started volunteering, there were many barriers along the way. It was expected that I would follow the path often travelled, graduate and immediately get a job in a bank because I studied Economics. Yet when I actually worked in a bank for a short while, I knew for sure that it was not the job for me.
So I made the decision to continue volunteering and left my job in the bank. This was not the easiest of times in my life because even though I was getting lots of fulfilment from my work in the development field, the stark reality of constantly having an empty purse staring back at me was hard. On top of all that, people would openly ridicule me because of the decision that I made. I was the laughing stock among my peers. However, I stayed strong in my resolve and constantly reminded myself of why I made the decisions that I made.
I however had a wonderful support structure from my friends and family. I also made sure that I kept good company, seeking out people who were supportive, who could give advice where they could and pointing me in the right direction.
What were some of the lowest points in the journey so far ?
I had a lot of moments when I would tell myself to just stop trying so hard and instead get a comfortable job that has nothing to do with development, just so I got paid a little for my efforts. To top it off, I got MANY rejection letters for the many jobs I would apply for. I attended some interviews which were not fruitful. I had people trying to make money out of me knowing that I was a passionate youth worker, dangling opportunities in front of me and telling me how I could access these opportunities at a fee (with money that I did not have anyway). I went through a very low point in my life when I asked myself what the point was, and what had made me believe I was so special or so different in the first place for me to dare to be different. Who was I to dare to dream big?
And when you dared to dream big and pursue your passion, what have been the greatest highlights?
At some point as if on cue, all at once many breakthroughs happened. My endurance paid off and I was suddenly part of a team who had characteristics, hopes and dreams much like mine. To top it all off, my life-time dream of being at the United Nations Headquarters with the bigwigs came true, and I was selected to give a speech about youth priorities in the General Assembly Hall. I got a job with a Civil Society Organization that I had enjoyed volunteering with for about a year. The opportunities to make a meaningful impact started coming in at a faster pace and I can safely say that I am a much happier individual than I was this time last year.
Through the highs and lows what have been your values and priorities? What are you grounded on?
I have very strong family values, I believe in always having people who sincerely care about you around you.
I believe in treating people the same way that I would like to be treated.
One of my favourite quotes of all time goes like this; “Live, Laugh, Love… live life to the fullest, love with all your heart, and laugh as much as you breathe.’’ I sincerely believe that love makes the world go round.
Who have been some of the most influential people in your life and what were your greatest learnings from them?
My mother has been my biggest role model. No matter what life throws at her, she picks herself up, dusts herself off and smiles. Then she fights harder. This always gives me hope and when I look at the difficult things she has had to go through, and still single-handedly put all her children through school without complaining or giving up, or even showing us just how badly she is struggling. My father passed away when I was 15 years old. This is 11 years later, it has not been an easy road but we have made it. So far, so good.
I have also gotten inspiration from very unlikely sources, my little sister, my friends, my coach and several other eagles who recognized my potential, gave me opportunities and supported me. I am grateful for all the very amazing people who always remind me that there is light at the end of the tunnel, empowered me with opportunities and skills.
What do you believe to be the meaning and purpose of life and what is your part in all this?
This question always brings many different theories to mind. But I once read something really interesting about the meaning of life. I quote,
“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
Therefore, I believe that my part in this is to help other people to realise what part they have to play, and do everything in my power to help others to get on that path, whether we are talking about a new development agenda, taking part in decision making, or anyone’s individual book, so to speak.
What is the bigger picture for you? How do you hope your work will impact the people you work with, your country and Africa?
Looking at the bigger picture, I want to keep working my way up in my organisation, someday end up as a country director. Either that or working in the UN system, where I can make a difference in people’s lives and get more young people involved in development issues
What are the areas that you think present real dangers and struggles for young leaders and how does one navigate them?
Young leaders are usually faced with the challenge of choice. Sometimes young leaders lose sight of why they started doing something and end up being swayed by what they are expected to do instead, or follow the crowd and end up pursuing other people’s dreams. In some cases, young leaders get to a point where it stops being about how they can help other people, but more of what is in it for them, the personal gain that they will attain. I have said this before and I will stress the point again. You must watch the company that you keep. If an eagle hangs out with chickens, it will never know that it can fly and soar in the sky.
How can you be contacted by other young people who would like to know more about development?
Facebook: Lombe Tembo or Action/2015 Zambia
Twitter: @ellt33 or @action2015_zam
What would be your parting advice ?
Never give up on your dreams…The sky is not the limit at all, it is just the playing ground.