Lucy Banda Sichone

(1954-1998) – Human rights activist and educator

Lucy Banda Sichone grew up in Zambia (then known as Northern Rhodesia) and came to Somerville in 1978 as Zambia’s first female Rhodes Scholar, studying PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics). While she was at Oxford, her fiancé and her daughter remained in Zambia. During her second year at Somerville, she married her fiancé and had her second child before returning for her third and final year of study. Just as she finished her Finals, Banda Sichone received word that her husband had been killed in a car crash. Friends from Somerville helped her to buy mourning clothes and pack up her things before leaving. She wrote to Principal Daphne Park the following autumn, thanking her for all that had been done (‘It is not something I am likely to forget’).

Banda Sichone returned to Zambia and practised as a lawyer and public defender. She ran for a position with the United National Independence Party (UNIP), then Zambia’s ruling party and went on to serve as Secretary for Legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs.

Founding the Zambian Civic Education Association in 1993 to provide civic education and legal aid, Banda Sichone taught citizens’ rights and represented Zambians in court pro bono. She also wrote a series of newspaper columns which were fiercely critical of government corruption and the abuse of power. Prosecuted by the state for her outspokenness, she was forced briefly into hiding. She died in 1998 at the age of 44, leaving behind four children and many foster children.

Did you know? Lucy Banda Sichone’s portrait was the first of a female Rhodes Scholar to hang in Milner Hall in Oxford’s Rhodes House. Speaking at the portrait’s unveiling, fellow Zambian Rhodes Scholar Sishuwa Sishuwa said, ‘Lucy was not an imposing figure, but she had an imposing mind. As a Zambian, I feel the gap left by Lucy Sichone to this day and her life is a challenge to my own… Lucy’s was a life lived well and in the service of others’.

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