By JAMES KUNDA –
PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has directed Finance Minister Felix Mutati to increase funding to the Ministry of Gender to spur the involvement of women in economic activity.
“Minister of Finance, Honourable Felix Mutati, ensure that adequate resources are allocated to the Ministry of Gender for implementing the PF manifesto’s vision of gender and women’s empowerment programmes,” President Lungu said. “I’ve heard reports that you are treating the ministry like a cinderella ministry; that should not be the case.”
Mr Lungu said the Ministry of Gender was as important as any other Government department and Mr Mutati should prioritise its funding to enhance its relevance as enshrined in the Patriotic Front (PF) manifesto.
The President said this at the Lusaka Showgrounds yesterday during commemorations to mark the International Women’s Day, with a minute of silence being observed for victims of gender-based violence (GBV), prior to his address.
The event was held under the local theme ‘Promoting inclusiveness in economic participation as a means of attaining sustainable development’.
The Head of State also directed all ministers to integrate gender in their sector plans and budgets as gender mainstreaming demonstrated the Government’s commitment to sustainable development by allocating equal resources to men, women, boys and girls.
President Lungu expressed sadness at incidences of GBV against both men and women as well as children, which should be stopped at all costs.
Mr Lungu said the Government had put in place a legal framework to allow for an equal principle in land allocation between men and women.
He directed Lands and Natural Resources Minister Jean Kapata and her Local Government counterpart Vincent Mwale to ensure that barriers in accessing land by women were eliminated for the female folk to fully own the resource.
President Lungu urged women to transform their mindset and get involved in agriculture to the point of value-addition to enhance the country’s productivity in the sector.
He suggested sectors such as livestock re-stocking and fish farming, which the Government is promoting to increase self-employment opportunities for all Zambians.
The President appreciated the significant contribution of women to national development and peace building, saying the female folk could not be ignored on any score.
He said the Government had this year engaged 14,000 girls from 16 districts in the country on the scheme dubbed ‘Girls’ education and women empowerment in livelihoods (GEWEL)’.
Mr Lungu envisaged that the project would guarantee the number of girls completing secondary and tertiary education.
It would also reduce the girl-child’s vulnerability to early pregnancies and child marriage as improved school attendance propelled the social and economic well-being of girls and women.
The Head of State urged stakeholders engaged in gender and women empowerment schemes to partner with the Government in creating awareness and implementing the new Gender Equity and Equality Act of 2015.
The law not only promotes gender equity and equality, but seeks to stimulate productive resources and opportunities for men and women.
It also eliminates all forms of discrimination against women and girls.
Meanwhile, President Lungu said the Government would not at any time soon hold a Referendum on the Bill of Rights due to financial constraints.
Mr Lungu said the country had held two costly elections in the last two years and now was time to channel resources towards alleviating the plight of Zambians.