I’ve always said that it’s not easy to be a woman in Zambia, maybe even Africa. It’s funny that just days after International Women’s Day the reality of being a woman hits home.

The fuel crisis hitting the country has meant long queues and the very clever setting up of the hashtag #petrolwatch on twitter to enable users to find petrol and alert others of where there is or isn’t fuel.

This morning, as we were trying to look for fuel, we randomly ended up at the airport – ok, not so random, my sister in law was travelling to South Africa where her mother is in a serious coma (more on the failings of our healthcare in my next blog), and right before we reached Engen at Chainama (were #patrolwatch confirmed there had been fuel at least 2 hours previously), my brother called and said, come to the airport, there is fuel here.

My brother held a place in the queue and when we arrived, we exchanged places. There was a car behind us, who then accused us of queue-barging, at which point, I explained that my brother was holding the spot for us and that really, it was not going to make a difference to them because it was switching one car out for another, not adding to the line.

At which point the woman in the passenger seat got out to complain to the fuel attendant, who kind of shrugged his shoulders. But the man in the drivers seat decided to bully his way in front of us to ensure he would get served before us. At which point, I was like ‘Dude, you’re still going to get served’ and then for some reason he started telling me to be mature. So I was like in which case, we should both be mature, I explained to you that my brother was holding this spot for us.

I don’t really know exactly what happened next but the fight escalated and my sister jumped out of the car to tell him off, the girl shouting at my sister as Mary is giving the example of being at the bank or Shoprite where someone says ‘I was holding this space for…’ or ‘I was already here…’ etc.   But they weren’t trying to hear it. I get out and told the guy to stop being an asshole, ok I did first ask him, ‘What kind of man are you?’ (Let me be clear, I don’t believe men should do things for me just because I’m a woman, but it was the gentlemanly thing to do because technically, we never did anything wrong)

At this point, the woman put her hand on me and said – ‘Don’t you know that he is a police officer, we’ll throw you in jail and you’ll spend the weekend there’.

Now I know my rights, and I hate abuse of power, corruption and all the other vices that plague our country, so I saw red and said ‘first of all, take your hands off me and don’t you dare threaten me’, so then she’s like ‘who were you insulting?’ ‘him!’, I yelled.

Mary tells him off for using his position of authority and cautioned him that he may be an officer of the law, but our father is a former Minister of Home Affairs, so does he really want to go down that road?  Her point being, don’t throw around these things, because it can end up being a who’s who, which is the exact behavior we need to stop in Zambia.

The owner then goes to the pump attendant and told him to serve the man in the Volvo.

The Volvo

I was already back in the car at this point as I realized there was no point because not one person came to try and diffuse the situation = except the pump attendant who told us there was enough fuel to serve everyone. He just didn’t understand that it wasn’t about the fuel at all.

After the guy got served he smirked at us and said sorry (with a huge smile) as he drove off. I gave him the middle finger (my anger knows no bounds sometimes)

When we got to the pump, I asked the attendant why he made the decision to serve the guy when he saw that we exchanged with a car already in the queue. He rolled his eyes and tried to ignore me. So I was like ‘hell no, I want an answer’, so he was like go ask my boss over there.

One thing I’ve noticed people in Zambia don’t do is complain to management. I don’t have a problem with this. If I don’t complain, you won’t know I felt wronged and you won’t do better next time. It’s exhausting because to be honest, most businesses here don’t understand the importance of customer care/service etc, so you say your piece and they basically look at you like you’re mad.

But anyway, we decided this was important to do. So when we asked the owner, Mr Nzila (if that’s his real name) he said, ‘I spoke to the woman to find out what was going on and I decided to let them get served first’. My response was, ‘But you didn’t hear our side, so how is that fair?’. He then went on to say that he didn’t need to hear our side because he decided that since we were the ones insulting, he decided to ‘punish us’. Punish us?!

We were being threatened to be thrown into jail, but we were punished because we raised our voices, got out of our car, and called the man (the officer of the law), who was sitting in his car an asshole… We were Punished.

What do you think would have happened if we were men?

That’s why Mary called it, the ‘conspiracy of men’. Not one man thought to hear us out, or to attempt to diffuse the situation, the filling station was full of men, instead they probably thought ‘How dare these women shout at a man, in public, and call him an asshole, who do they think they are? yes, they should be punished.’

Eventually the owner of the filling station apologized to Mary – I was back in the car at this point – after he initially refused to apologise – saying ‘it was his decision to make as a business owner’ (and fck his customers clearly – or at least the female ones). Mary had argued with him that surely if he felt it was so bad he should have ‘punished’ both of us and put both of us at the back of the queue – fair enough.

The reality is that I would have been quite happy to let them go first if he’d simply asked – I could understand their annoyance that we came in after they’d been waiting – about 20 minutes if that. But he and his ghetto chick decided they wanted to bully us, intimidate us and just wanted to be… assholes (yes I said it again).

There was some pent up frustration that came out, we always get shafted, whether you’re a woman, poor, or seem to have no power.

Just last night as I was lying in bed I was thinking about how helpful we are to people because we believe in them, or because we know it doesn’t cost us anything to help. But yet, I feel so few people here have our back. Whether it’s petty jealously, or envy, or whatever that I’ve never understood, it still frustrates and angers.

I believe working together, as a collective, is good for the industry but there are people who feel otherwise. But now I’m getting side-tracked.

My point was that despite having a female vice-president, despite having females in position of power, those of us on the street still get overlooked. I don’t know what else to do but tell my truth every time I see or am overlooked, or unseen as a woman. We all have to. Maybe then will people understand the daily injustices we face and want to get involved – I’ve always said, we need a heforshe campaign in Zambia – we can’t do it without men.  I wondered why we turned back to go to the airport when we were so close to Chainama were there were supposed to be fuel, Mary said it was God that made us go there, for us to get angry to remember that it’s only when you’re angry about injustice that you want to do something about it.  Food for thought

Now that I’ve calmed down, let me get back to work, and enjoy your Youth Day!

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