GIVEN the many restrictions, topical debates and vices that are being associated with the use of the Internet, the question is still asked as to how young or old one should be to get access to this colossus of modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
The Internet means and impacts on a lot of people and things in many ways, but while some use it to find 'true love' or life-time careers, a group of 30 elderly women in Mongu district of Western Province have something different up their sleeves.
Going by their name Masupanzila (leading the way), the women cooperative members are honing their computer skills and Internet access with a craving to make profit while seated on a swiveling chair in front of a computer screen.
On an early Wednesday morning, the elderly women excitedly congest Mongu's Mukola Multi-purpose Community Centre; an Internet café situated in the town's central business area, to have a go at a computer despite their advanced age.
Under the tutelage of two volunteers from the United States of America-based Women Global Connections (WGC), which is an organisation that was started by two nuns from the Roman Catholic Church order of the Incarnate Word, the women put mouse to pad as they clicked their destiny away in every movement of the cursor.
Jacquelyn Poplawsky, one of the US volunteers, explains the genesis of the linkage between Women Global Connections and Masupanzila.
"The sisters met one of the women here in Mongu and her name is Sanana Lewanika. Actually her husband (Kusiyo Mbikusita-Lewanika) runs this tele-centre," Poplawsky says. "So in collaboration with Women Global Connections and Sanana, they began Masupanzila, this women cooperative."
As if by misfortune, the women's computer lessons came to an abrupt halt following a power failure; a problem which has become like a second skin to most Mongu residents because of the intermittent power supply interruptions.
However, Poplawsky explains that the women were farmers and that they were being trained in computer skills and Internet usage to enable them find a market for their farm produce.
"Or come together so that they can make a bigger and more efficient profit," Poplawsky says.
She says this year the women's cooperative had grown a lot of Mongu rice and their coming together to hone their computer skills was aimed at selling their rice worldwide.
"That is what they would like to do," Poplawsky emphasises. "That is one of their dreams. They are also having the vision - or it is a dream of theirs - to start keeping hybrid cattle here in Mongu to create a dairy farm."
Poplwasky says the women's dreams are a product of perseverance and hope.
"We hope that by working together they can help their families and help themselves," Poplawsky says. "What we are doing here today is to try and set them up on the Internet so that they can coordinate with us in the US so that we can continue to find them funding and grants because the more they coordinate with us and share their stories, the more we can share their stories and find donors for them."
Poplawsky says linkages with Masupanzila initially started with three women and that now efforts were being concentrated on encompassing all of them.
"The three most important principles of Women Global Connection is social impact for women," says Poplawsky. "We do not want to bring them an idea; we want them to come up with their own vision so that they own it."
By the end of the interview, the power outage still persisted and the women sat in front of the blank computer screens waiting for that flicker that would signify that power was back.
In a province tallied to be the poorest in the country, the Masupanzila Women Cooperative would need more than a good luck wish to reverse the sad socio-economic reality.
But for a cooperative that was inspired on a religious foundation, the Masupanzila women can best be comforted by the fact that if salvation for Christians came through a woman, then even development for Western Province can come through a group of elderly women that are set on a path to lead the way.
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