It was her experiences in childhood that motivated Beatrice Kanyamuna-Pole to address the water challenges facing rural Zambians. Today, she is the only woman engineer working on a pilot groundwater mapping and wellfield development project 125 km east of the capital Lusaka.
Engineer Beatrice Kanyamuna-Pole is, in her own words, “a goal achiever”.
“I don’t accept defeat,” she says. “I have thrived from rags to who I am today.” And, as senior hydrogeologist in Zambia’s Department of Water Resource Development, she is leading the way for other girls and women to follow.
Beatrice grew up in southern Zambia – where droughts are common – knowing that water is a precious resource. “We used to get water from the river. During the dry season, as the water dried up in the river, we walked approximately 5 km to the nearest handpump in the neighbouring village.”
Being underestimated because of her gender is something that Beatrice has encountered throughout her career. But she is undeterred – in fact, she’s more determined than ever. “I never let anyone else decide my worth and capabilities but me,” she says.
If somebody underestimates me, I make sure they see me succeeding instead.
Beatrice Kanyamuna-Pole, engineer and senior hydrogeologist
Taking on a male-dominated field, she is well aware of the challenges women face. “Women are still woefully underrepresented in the higher ranks of the workplace and among the policymakers and decision-makers who develop and implement our laws. It means that women’s perspectives and needs are not given the same consideration as men’s.”
Through her actions, Beatrice is inspiring others to follow suit. “Women have been encouraged by my active role in the area of engineering. I have inspired a lot of women to participate in any role that men do, including political leadership where women still face resistance.”
Her guiding motto? “It always seems impossible until it’s done. You can do it.” We couldn’t agree more.
About the project
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region faces severe climatic variability scenarios, and its population suffers from varying degrees of water scarcity.
The European Union funds cooperation in the International Waters in Africa (CIWA) programme, a World Bank trust fund that provides technical support and critical analysis to African governments to advance transboundary water cooperation and management.
In the SADC region, the support focuses on the integration of groundwater database systems, groundwater exploration, groundwater monitoring and the promotion of hygiene and sanitation. 14 projects have been launched by the SADC Groundwater Management Institute, 5 of which have been completed in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.