AMANDLA! WOMEN TO WATCH EDITION
Bubile Lungu Shonga
High Court Judge
Why did you decide to study law?
Being the second last born and a girl in a large family, I found myself having to find ways to persuade my family to hear me out. I discovered, early in life, that if I wanted to be heard I needed to know my rights and present my views in a way which made it impossible to be ignored. The communication and analytical skills I developed to navigate my home environment convinced me that law would be the perfect field through which I could participate in bringing justice to the most vulnerable among humanity: children, women, and the economically challenged.
What is your proudest professional moment thus far?
My proudest professional moment was in 2016 when I received my letter of appointment to serve on the Zambian bench as a High Court Judge from the President of the Republic of Zambia. I was ecstatic!
Looking back, what is one decision/action you would have done differently?
I waited longer than necessary to present myself as a candidate for the bench. I qualified at 10 years post-admission to the bar but waited till I hit 20. I believe you do not need to wait until you are infinitely qualified for a position; do it as soon as you are equal to the task.
Share some major professional challenges you have faced, or continue to face as a woman in law.
The biggest challenge has been getting people, including women, to be more interested in my mind, being what I have to say or bring to the table rather than my appearance. When people think you are easy on the eyes, it takes a while for them to appreciate your intellectual capacity. Men tend to be more interested in getting into your knickers. I had to learn tactics to draw attention to my intellectual input. Another challenge was breaking through the old ‘boys club’ in terms of accessing powerful players in the market – who were, in most cases, males. Access meant clients and learning their language opened some doors. Lastly, managing competing demands for my attention was another significant challenge: children, spouse, work, extended family, and self. Balance doesn’t mean allocating equal time to each demand. I have learnt that quality time trumps equal time.
What are some practical strategies for survival in the legal profession?
I learnt that being exceptionally knowledgeable, being prepared for meetings, and offering viable solutions to problems in spaces that I occupied better diverted attention to my intellectual capabilities. Know your purpose and add value to your institution and profession. Remember that nobody despite their gender, race, or social status has monopoly on wisdom. Work hard, remain relevant, and do not procrastinate. Ignore the naysayers and get the job done. Set your boundaries at work and also the ones for your body. Additionally, you must develop the boldness to communicate those boundaries and speak up when the need arises. Be a person of integrity. Lastly, know the difference between who you are and what you do. Bring the best of who you are to everything that you do.