Interview: Linking arms
Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, Christian Aid’s Chief Executive, talks to Stephen Tomkins
Amanda Khozi Mukwashi often uses the word ubuntu, which comes from Zulu and Xhosa origins. Archbishop Desmond Tutu defined it as ‘our humanness, caring, hospitality, our sense of connectedness, our sense that my humanity is bound up in your humanity’. It is an idea which motivates people in places like Zambia, where Ms Khozi Mukwashi was brought up, to work together to overcome unfair disadvantages. It is an idea which motivates her now as Chief Executive of Christian Aid, working to resource them in that work. And it is an idea that motivates Christian Aid supporters as they help to fund that work. As far apart as our lives may be, we are part of one another.
Reform talked to Ms Khozi Mukwashi about her own story and about the work of Christian Aid, just after Christian Aid Week in May.
Your parents were Catholics. Can you tell us something about the values that you were raised with?
Being hardworking was a big one. And integrity: do what you say you’ll do. My father used to say: ‘A good name is better than riches.’ Be a human being, who is humane and who treats others well. What we saw in practice from them was that they were hardworking, honest, and gave their very best to what they did. I also saw these values from my grandparents, who were quite key in my life.
Are those values still with you today?
I think they’ve shaped me. I try to work as hard as I can, do an honest day’s job and do it wholeheartedly with love and commitment. In my dealings with staff, with trustees, with those around me, I hope that they can say: ‘She’s fair and she’s compassionate and she works hard and she’s committed to the cause.’
You were baptised into the Seventh-Day Adventist Church while at university. Was that quite different to the faith you were brought up with?
I think it was an affirmation of the values that I was raised with, from the Catholic Church and from my upbringing. What the Seventh-Day Adventist Church did was to get me into a place where I could search the scriptures by myself and develop a strong personal relationship with God.
You had a pretty international upbringing in England, Zambia and Italy, and an international career since then. Do you consider yourself a citizen of the world?
I would like to believe that I am a global citizen. I consider the United Kingdom home. It has given me space, it has allowed me to grow, it has taught me to navigate some really difficult spaces. But Zambia is home too. It is the place that has shaped and defined who I am. My heritage cuts across several countries in southern Africa, which is quite normal for people in that region where borders are a recent definition. I can trace connections to Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa.
In my work, I’ve come to appreciate that the national boundaries are just for practical and political reasons – what passport you hold, how developed the country is or not. As a human being, I feel very much like a global citizen. I have shared values with other people, who are looking for social justice around the world, regardless of where they come from. We were all created equal.
It’s great to see someone from Zambia in charge of Christian Aid. We tend to think of aid as being something that westerners give to developing countries. Does your background give you a different perspective on this job?
I think so. The fact that I am from the global south gives me a different perspective. Seeing, with friends and relatives, how poverty can be devastating or what lack of education can do to families. The fact that I am a black woman also gives me a different perspective on the job.
Africa is a whole continent, with a rich diversity of people and experiences, and yet the media (although this has been challenged and is beginning to change) portray it as a lost continent that solely lives on handouts…
This is an extract from an interview published in the June 2020 edition of Reform