An interview with children's author Lady Justice Shonga

Lady Justice Bubile Shonga
Zambian children’s author and High Court Judge, Lady Justice Bubile Shonga.
Content warning: This interview makes reference to sexual abuse affecting children.

In this interview, The Book Bus meets children’s author and Zambian High Court Judge, Lady Justice Bubile Shonga.

Lady Justice Shonga discusses her journey to becoming a High Court Judge and children’s author, as well why parents should introduce children to reading.

Along the way, you will learn about the two children’s books published by Lady Justice Shonga in 2022, and how Lady Justice Shonga works to advance younger female lawyers and the rights of women and girls.

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Lundazi, Zambia, in October, 1972. I went to primary school at Northmead Primary School in Lusaka, Zambia. I also went to P. S 158 in New York City. I started my secondary education at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in Ontario, Canada and completed it at St. Mary’s Secondary School in Lusaka in 1990, as Head Girl.

I hold a Bachelor of Laws Degree from The University of Zambia, where I graduated top of my class in 1996. In 2004, I was awarded a commonwealth scholarship to pursue my Masters Degree and in 2005 I obtained my Masters of Law Degree (Commercial Transactions) from the University of Nottingham.

I practiced law for 20 years before being appointed as a High Court Judge in Zambia. Before my appointment to the bench, I was an active member of the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ). In pursuing one of my objectives in life, to advance and promote the advancement of younger female lawyers, I co-pioneered the LAZ Mentorship program in 2013.

In May, 2016, I was appointed Judge of the High Court for Zambia. Two years later, in December, 2018 l, I was appointed 1st Resident Judge and Judge in Charge of the Commercial Division sitting in KItwe. That same year I was also elected as an Executive Member of the Zambia Association of Women Judges (ZAWJ), the Zambian Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges. ZAWJ is committed to the advancement of human rights and equal justice for women and girls. In April 2019, I was appointed Chairperson of the Education Committee of ZAWJ. I am part of the ZAWJ Executive that has formalized a mentorship program within the judiciary.

Tell us about your book

In March, 2022, I published two children’s books that are aimed at empowering children with crucial life skills that are intended to reduce their exposure to sexual abuse. Book 1 is Khwima’s ABCs in body safety. This book introduces the child reader to the topic of body safety through the main character Khwima, a ten-year-old girl, and her family. The book teaches children about body parts to help them understand body boundaries and their right to privacy as a tool of empowerment. Topics covered include the following: Body Parts, Clothes and Underwear. Khwima leads the discussion so that she children can relate to her as a peer.

Book 2 is Khwima’s Body Safety Crusade. This book alerts children about situations, traditions, and places that a child should be cautious about in their environment, including at home, schools, hospitals, and religious settings. Khwima and her family chat with other children about scenarios that may make children uncomfortable or that expose them to danger and offer guidance on how to steer through them and how to get help. Topics covered include the following: Body Secrets, Privacy, Dangers within and without the familiar circle and From the Mouths of Babes which unpacks questions that children have asked.

The Books are relevant not only in Zambia, but across Africa and other countries with communal living because they speak to common traditions and community arrangements which present additional exposure points.

Why is reading essential for children

As I was growing up, I was taught that knowledge is power. I hold this to be true. I believe that a child who is enlightened about body boundaries and body safety is less likely to be manipulated into inappropriate behavior. Similarly, a child who is knowledgeable is also more likely to report inappropriate behavior or abuse if it, unfortunately, occurs.

How can parents actively introduce their children to the experience of reading

In my view, parents, guardians and caregivers can introduce their children to the experience of reading from pregnancy. I started to read to each of my children from the day I discovered I was pregnant. I continued to do so after they were born, while they were infants and toddlers. As they grew older, I encouraged them to read. We would take turns reading different paragraphs in a book, then we would take turns reading different pages, until they could confidently read on their own. Reading not only helps a child to understand and learn different things, it also helps them to master the language they are reading in. In addition, reading helps to exercise and develop the brain and can introduce the child to the wonderful world of imagination. In my opinion, it is one of the greatest gifts that you can arm a child with!

The Book Bus strives to share the joy of reading with children in Zambia, providing books, storytelling materials and libraries for children and teachers. If you would like to support The Book Bus’ mission to provide opportunities through literacy, you can gift a quality book by authors like Lady Justice Shonga.