Gender equality: Zambia on right track
Published On February 9, 2014 » 26385 Views» By Administrator Times » Features
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GENDER refers to culturally based expectations regarding the roles and behaviours of males and females.
The term distinguishes the socially constructed from the biologically determined aspects of being male and female.
Unlike sex roles that are biologically constructed, gender roles and behaviours are in most cases culturally prescribed.
Gender inequalities and imbalances have continued to hinder Zambia’s development efforts and its ability to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s).
The year 2013 as reviewed by some stakeholders in the gender sector indicate that there is still so much more that the country can embark on  to enhance gender equality.
To this effect, as part of efforts aimed at achieving MDG three which seeks to promote gender equality, and to eliminate gender disparity, the Zambian government has prioritised gender mainstreaming as a key area of intervention.
Government launched the Zambia National Gender Communication Strategy 2010-2015, with a goal to reduce gender imbalances all levels of socio-economic and political spheres.
According to this document, Zambia is on track to achieve gender parity in primary school enrolment as well as in literacy among 15-24-year-olds.
The concept of gender mainstreaming implies that gender is not treated separately but is implemented within all existing policies, programmes and activities.
Gender mainstreaming reduces the duplication of effort and resources for achieving the same results for both men and women.
It also entails that resources for implementation are equally applied to address specific issues for both men and women and ensures that women’s issues are not sidelined and poorly resourced.
The National Gender Communications Strategy seeks to change the negative perceptions and attitudes on gender that have continued to perpetuate gender inequalities in Zambia.
Most of these inequalities have further been compounded by the social institutions that guide the functioning of society.
This is because government recognises the importance of equal and full participation of both men and women in the development process at all levels in order to ensure sustainable development and attainment of equality between sexes.
This strategy is therefore poised to facilitate quality, consistency and sustainability of gender messages to positively shape the mind-set of planners and programmers who are key people in making gender mainstreaming work in different line ministries and other government departments.
The 2008 UNICEF study on the ‘Situation of Children and Women in Zambia’ stated that children and women are more likely to experience poverty, livelihood failure, chronic and transitory food insecurity and incidences of diseases especially in remote areas.
The study also reveals that women and children are more vulnerable to physical, psychological and sexual violence that far exceeds any traditionally acceptable practices, but have little access to protection.
The patriarchal system practiced by many ethnic groupings in Zambia, also enables men to have more opportunity access, control, power and authority of resources than women.
The social-cultural and legal system reinforces and entrenches patriarchal relations by giving men control over productive resources such as land and other valuable property, through marriage norms which subordinate wives to husbands,’
Other factors include inheritance customs which declare men the principle beneficiaries of family property, placing women and girls at a disadvantage in relation to their male counterparts.
Gender based violence (GBV) on the other hand is one of the most pervasive and worst means by which gender disparities are manifested in Zambia.
According to the 2007 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS), almost half (47 per cent) of women have experienced physical violence.
Some of the factors that contribute to sexual and GBV in Zambia as contained in the National gender Communication Strategy include negative traditional practices such as sexual cleansing, initiation ceremonies which indoctrinate young women to be submissive to male domination, as well as cultural practices that promote imbalanced power relations and sexual harassment.
As part of its commitment to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol (SGP), Zambia undertook a process to identify some of the gender gaps by aligning its policy and action plan to the SGP.
In line with this, the Zambian Government has elevated Gender in Development Division under Cabinet Office to a fully fledged ministry – the Ministry of Gender and Child Development, with a mandate of coordinating gender equality across various sectors.
The Government has also gone a step further in establishing Gender Focal Points in all line Ministries and Government Departments.
This year, Zambia is among six other African countries that have met the Abuja Declaration to allocate at least 15 percent of their annual budgets to healthcare by 2015.
The other five countries are Liberia, Togo, Malawi, Rwanda and Madagascar.
Anti-Gender based Violence Act no. 1 of 2011.
In reviewing the year 2013, the Zambia National Women’s Lobby (ZNWL) explained that Zambia still remains one of the countries in the region where few women are represented in decision making positions.
ZNWL chairperson Beauty Katebe observed that in 2013, the situation remained the same with low numbers of women represented in various decision making positions.
“For Political decision making positions, all the political parties had less than 30 per cent of women represented in their political party leadership structures,” she observed.
Ms Katebe explained the councils and Parliament also continued with 6 per cent women represented in Local Government and 11 per cent women in Parliament.
She however commended efforts by the Patriotic Front (PF) to appoint a significant number of women in decision making positions.
“Since the Patriotic Front Government came to power, it has tried to appoint women to high decision making positions in various Government boards, Departments and Ministries,” she explained.
The year 2013 also saw more women being appointed to various boards and as heads of Quasi Government institutions such as the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) and Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA).
“We would like to urge Government to continue as this is one of the ways of increasing women in decision making positions,” she said.
According to Mrs Katebe, it is likely that the country may not be able to meet the benchmark of the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development of ensuring that there is 50 per cent representation of men and women in all decision making positions by 2015.
Other countries in the SADC region like South Africa and Lesotho (at local government level) that have managed to increase the number of women in decision-making positions have used affirmative action such as reviewing of legal framework for more women to enter decision-making positions.
In the year 2013, the fight against gender based violence (GBV) saw a rise in the number of defilement cases, rape cases, killings of women by their husbands and partners, increased early marriages and early pregnancies.
Defilement cases are the ones that surpassed all GBV cases as revealed in July 2013 by Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo who reported in Parliament that over 6,000 girls had been defiled between 2010 and 2013.
ZNWL is highly concerned with these statistics which it describes as worrying.
Ms Katebe however commended efforts being made by civil society, and other stakeholders to curb this vice.
She called for increased sensitisation efforts for 2014, such as discarding some negative traditional practices, cultural myths that are responsible for exacerbating the rise in defilement cases.
Currently, Zambia is party to various international instruments on gender such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), SGP, and other regional and international protocols.
It is cardinal that effective implementation of these instruments is prioritised through policy and review of legislation, as well as the need to domesticate the instruments in order to facilitate the protection of women’s rights.

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