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Meet Charles Kalonga: The Extraordinary Country Director Transforming Lives in Zambia

Jun 21, 2023

When it comes to Charles Kalonga, the Country Director of Population Media Center in Zambia, his goals are nothing short of extraordinary — they could fill several careers. 

Just take a look at what he’s aiming to achieve in Zambia: putting an end to child marriage, standing up for women’s rights, ensuring that every girl and boy gets an education, reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and making a huge dent in deforestation. Phew! That’s quite the to-do list. 

But Kalonga isn’t one to back down from a challenge. With his background in social and behavior change communication, his goal is to lift barriers and illuminate choices for people to live better lives. “It’s challenging, but someone must do it, and I am up for the task,” says Kalonga, Country Director since 2018. In fact, he joined PMC because of his passion to change people’s lives for the better. 

Kalonga is no stranger to making a positive impact. Before he joined PMC, he was managing director at Live Well Social Business in Zambia, where he provided alternative and holistic health services. Before that, he worked as the program director at Marie Stopes International in Ethiopia, focusing on family planning, maternal and child health care, and HIV/AIDS services. He even contributed his skills to Population Services International, an organization dedicated to promoting behavioral change for healthier lives.  

Within PMC, Kalonga is continuing to change lives. Thanks to funding from the United States Agency for International Development, PMC-Zambia has created two seasons of radio serial dramas called Kwishilya (“Over the Horizon”) and Sinalamba (“Breaking the Barrier”). These shows tackle crucial topics like child marriage, family planning, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, and gender-based violence.  

Testimonies from thousands of listeners reveal that people are changing their behavior because of these programs. The first season of Kwishilya alone reached an estimated 659,440 weekly listeners, empowering more women to use modern contraceptives and getting more girls into school. Listeners were more likely than non-listeners to have discussed and practiced family planning, to have fed dairy products to their children under two years old, to have used post-natal services, and to have visited a clinic several times after their last baby was born. That’s some real impact! 

A Look at Impact In Zambia

And it’s all because PMC knows how to develop relatable programming that truly connects with its audience. We conduct incisive research and create content that people can see themselves in.  

“In that way, listeners see themselves in the story, and a bond between the characters and the listeners is formed,” Kalonga says. 

That bond between the characters and the listeners is what drives the change. Kalonga knows this firsthand and emphasizes how significant the behavioral differences were between listeners and non-listeners in the endline outcome survey of Season One.  

“PMC gives me the opportunity to show people that, indeed, this planet can be a better place for all,” Kalonga says. 

When he’s not busy at the PMC office in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, you might just find Kalonga indulging in his other passions. Believe it or not, he’s a fan of Formula 1 auto racing. He loves the thrill of the speed, the mechanics behind the machines, and the strategies employed by the teams.  

“It’s quite thrilling,” he says. 

But if he’s in need of something more peaceful, you’ll probably find him farming. Yep, he grows vegetables at home and takes care of a herd of over 200 goats and some cattle. Among Kalonga’s abilities is operating a 30- to 40-ton 22-wheel truck, a skill he used in what he calls his “adventurous” phase of life. In summers during college, he went on the road in Zambia, helping a driver deliver building materials. “I had great fun driving a truck,” he says, “but it was also challenging.” 

At PMC, Kalonga is admired for his focus and working tirelessly to achieve his ambitious goals. He firmly believes that every person deserves to live a dignified life, regardless of where they are on this planet. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and working with PMC gives me an opportunity,” Kalonga says of his work. 

Whether it be Formula 1 racing, driving trucks, or working towards social and behavioral change, Charles knows we must always move forward and anticipate new challenges around every corner. We are so appreciative to have Charles moving PMC, and Zambia, forward.