Zambians get firsthand look at American democracy


September 24, 2001|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

AS OUR NATION is racked by crisis, it can't hurt to remember that other countries look to the United States as a role model of democracy.

Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, three women from Zambia arrived in Maryland to learn about American democracy. They stayed in Calvert County and spent time in Washington.

They visited Howard County last week, meeting with civic leaders and comparing notes on topics such as gender issues, government policies and grass-roots organizing.

The trip was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the State Department as part of an effort to promote democracy in underdeveloped countries. Howard County's League of Women Voters welcomed another group of Zambian women about three years ago and might sponsor other groups in the future, said Susan Buswell, co-chairwoman of the Howard County league.

Buswell said Zambia has been a multiparty democracy since 1991, but that the country suffers from poverty, gender inequality and a poor education system. Before 1991, President Kenneth D. Kaunda led the country as a one-party state for 27 years.

Zambia, a major exporter of copper, was once prosperous, but falling copper prices have plunged the country into desperate poverty, with the one of the lowest per-capita incomes in Africa, Buswell said.

The three visitors were Julia Mvula, provincial coordinator of the Foundation for Democratic Process; Betty Mwaka Majula, executive director of the Zambia Civic Education Association; and Chipo Grace Lungu, executive director of the National Women's Lobby Group, which trains women to run for political office.

The three stayed with league co-president Betsy Grater of Ellicott City and had a busy schedule in Howard County. On Sept. 17, a luncheon was held at Grater's house in their honor.

After that, the women met with female civic leaders, including Del. Elizabeth Bobo, Pearl Atkinson-Stewart of the Columbia Council and Jane B. Schuchardt, chairwoman of the county Board of Education.

On Tuesday, Mvula, Majula and Lungu visited the Howard County Board of Elections, where Robert J. Antonetti Sr., director of the board, discussed voting procedures in the United States.

"They were very interested in the mechanics of electing people," said league member Jocelyn Knowles. In talking to the Zambian women, Knowles said, she felt that issues of gender and politics in the United States and Zambia were similar - though more pronounced in Zambia.

Buswell agreed. "It was a revelation, I think, to them and to us, how similar many of our problems are, but on a spectrum," she said. "There were misperceptions on both sides."

Auction to benefit charity

A. Caplan's of Ellicott City plans to donate part of the proceeds from its auction today to the American Red Cross.

The auction of furniture and collectibles is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Small items, including glassware, old telephones and linens, will be auctioned first. Furniture, including an art deco dining-room set and tufted Victorian sofas, will be auctioned starting at 8 p.m.

The antiques dealer plans to donate 3 percent of the gross proceeds to the Red Cross. A box will also be available for people who wish to leave donations.

Information: 410-750-7678.

For pre-readers

Local libraries have many programs for children who are too young to read.

For babies age 23 months and younger, "Play Partners" offers a half-hour of stories, songs and lap games. The drop-in programs will be held from 10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Saturdays through Oct. 6 at the Miller branch library.

For kids age 2 and 3, there's "3, 2, Fun," a program of stories, activities and finger plays for children and their parents. These programs will be held from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays at the Miller branch through Oct. 3, and 10 a.m. to 10:30 and 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Thursdays at the Elkridge branch through Oct. 11.

The Elkridge branch also has scheduled a drop-in story time for children age 2 to 5 from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday. (Adults should accompany 2-year-olds.)

Both branches also offer "Just For Me" story times for children age 3 to 5 without an adult. The Miller branch program is from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursdays through Oct. 4, and the Elkridge branch program is from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays through Oct. 17.

Information: Elkridge branch library, 410-313-5085; Miller branch library, 410-313-1980.

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