Alumni Shout-out: Dr. Emily Joy Sikazwe

This article, written by Claire Fawcett, Department of Anthropology, appears in the Summer 2019 edition of The Beacon.

The Beacon regularly features interviews with StFX University Alumni on the topic of their relationships with StFXAUT Members who challenged, inspired, or helped in some way. This issue’s interview is with Dr. Emily Joy Sikazwe.

Emily Sikazwe (Coady Dipl. 2004, M.Ad.Ed. 2006, Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) 2011) is emphatic: If they meet the academic requirements, her as yet unborn grandchildren–the first child of her daughter, Kayi Nakazwe (B.A., 2010), and of her son, Yatuta Sikazwe (B.A., 2012)–will attend StFX. Attending StFX, after all, has become a family tradition.

Dr. Sikazwe initially came to StFX to study at the Coady International Institute. As the executive director of Women for Change—Zambia, a national non-governmental organization dedicated to the empowerment of women, she was eager to deepen her understanding of development practice. Receiving a Coady Diploma in Community-Based Development and a Certificate in Advocacy and Networking whetted Dr. Sikazwe’s appetite for more education at StFX, so she enrolled in the Master of Adult Education program. With guidance from her supervisor Dr. Alan Quigley, who she remembers as a strict but fair professor, and other members of the Department, notably Drs. Leona English and Jane Dobson, Dr. Sikazwe wrote a thesis on developing women’s leadership through mentoring in rural Zambia.

Dr. Sikazwe found her Master’s experience academically enriching. She examined in theoretical terms her practical knowledge of the rural Zambian cultural practice of women mentoring women though life events such as puberty, marriage, pregnancy, and young motherhood. This linking of theory and practice added depth to her thinking and enabled her to move forward in her development practice, particularly in her work with women with low or no literacy skills. She also conversed extensively with people from the Coady Institute, such as Mary Coyle, Olga Gladkikh, David Fletcher, Deborah Castle, Colleen Cameron, and Alison Mathie.

Yatuta Sikazwe (left) and Dr. Emily Joy Sikazwe

Many students in the Master of Adult Education program live in their home communities but, for political reasons, Dr. Sikazwe could not live in Zambia. With help from the United Church of Canada, Development and Peace, and the Coady Institute, she stayed in Antigonish residing at Coady MacNeil while her two young children attended boarding school. On a personal level, this could have been a lonely time for Dr. Sikazwe. She feels herself fortunate to have met Dr. Michael Steinitz and his wife Heidi who welcomed her into their home to enjoy Heidi’s superb cooking and a little editorial help with her thesis. The warmth of the Steinitz’ family led to a close friendship. In fact, the Steinitz family—Heidi, Michael, daughter Suzanna and grandson David—recently visited Dr. Sikazwe in Zambia.

After graduating in 2006 with her Master of Adult Education, Dr. Sikazwe returned to work with Women for Change—Zambia while regularly traveling to StFX to instruct courses in Gender Training for Policy and Planning, Advocacy for Citizen Engagement and Community Development, and Community Development Leadership by Women. In 2011, Dr. Sikazwe received a Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) from StFX in recognition of her tireless advocacy of women’s empowerment in Zambia and around the world. She is currently engaged as one of five Commissioners at the Electoral Commission of Zambia.

Dr. Sikazwe’s connections to StFX stay strong. Her daughter Kayi Nakazwe received a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from StFX in 2010. She then completed post-graduate studies in social justice, theology, and community development. Ms. Nakazwe holds a Master in Theological Studies from Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto and is now working in Lusaka as a social welfare officer in the Ministry of Community Development & Social Welfare.

Dr. Sikazwe’s son, Yatuta Sikazwe, graduated from StFX with a B.A. in Political Science in 2012 and from the University of Victoria with a M.A. in Political Science. He is employed as a parliamentary liaison officer in the Zambian government’s Office of the Vice President.

StFX has earned a place in the hearts of Dr. Sikazwe and her children. In years to come, the campus may well be welcoming future generations of this family.