President Edgar Lungu has met the board of the Non Governmental Coordinating Council (NGOCC) at State House in Lusaka today. The President and the NGOCC team discussed a wide range of issues.
The issues discussed included the challenges women face, gender equality, political violence, high cost of leaving and the amended constitution.
Below id the NGOCC Submission.
NGOCC GENDER SUBMISSIONS TO HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT EDGAR LUNGU, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF ZAMBIA, 8TH APRIL 2016
We are grateful for according us this opportunity to discuss with you some of the issues affecting the majority of women who have remained, to a considerable extent, sidelined from participating in, and benefiting from the various national development processes over the years. Despite the fact that the number of women is higher than men (constituting 52% of the total population), women have, over the past years, continued to face obstacles in fully participating in various local and national development processes and programs, and in the political process.
It is evident that society, due to entrenched patriarchy, still has a bias towards the male gender which continues to disproportionately access various services and benefits. Efforts to change the status of women in Zambia have continued to be frustrated by a number of legal impediments and inadequate political will. The effects of discrimination against women are exacerbated in a society suffering from major problems such as shortage of resources, poverty, inequalities in wealth and a high prevalence of HIV and AIDS.
Brief About NGOCC
The Non-Governmental Organizations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) is a body registered under the Societies Act, of the Laws of Zambia. NGOCC was established by a few Zambian women NGOs in 1985, after the United Nations’ World Conference on women held in Nairobi Kenya. The establishment of NGOCC was born out of the realization that the process of empowering women needed concerted efforts. Hence, NGOCC was born to facilitate networking at national, regional, and international levels in issues of Gender and development. Within its 30 years of existence, NGOCC has become recognized as the focal point of the women’s movement in Zambia and has a current membership of 104 both NGOs and Community based Organizations countrywide.
Guided by our vision of “A society where women fully participate and benefit from social, cultural, economic, and political development” NGOCC uniquely stands on its mission “To champion gender equality and equity through coordinated institutional and capacity development support to members, advocacy, and linkages with local and international partners. Over the years, NGOCC has been involved in advocacy work towards the achievement of its vision and objectives.
SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT WOMEN FACE
(A) Feminization of Poverty
The poverty rate for Zambia is over 60% with rural poverty at 78% and urban at 28%. Feminisation of poverty remains the broad characteristic of the Zambian poverty profile. Women’s poverty in peri-urban and rural areasis a major factor which contributes to their increased vulnerability to disease, lower food insecurity, lower levels of educational attainment and lower access to basic services.
(B) Maternal & Child Health
While recognizing the improvements in the maternal mortality rate, we realiase that the rate is still high at 591 out of 100, 000 live birthswhile the infant mortality rate is 70 per 1000 live births. Young women become mothers early with 35% of women giving birth before the age 18 putting them at high risk of maternal mortality.
(C) HIV & AIDS
In Zambia, of the more than 900, 000 people living with HIV, 57% are women. (LCM 2010). The incidence and prevalence of HIV and AIDS continues to affect women more than men. The prevalence rate for HIV and AIDS in Zambia is 14.3% and girls are being more infected than boys.
(D) Gender Based Violence
Zambia is an example of having enacted a comprehensive legislation aimed at combating and ending gender based violence at all levels. The Anti Gender Based Violence Act of 2011 provides for a number of progressive interventions that requires holistic approaches and the broad participation of citizens. We note the need to adequately resource the Zambia Police with logistical support, materials and human resource capacities to handle cases of GBV – this, by and large still remains a challenge. The role of traditional and community leaders is also a progressive step to ensure that GBV is fought right within the communities. The NGOCC network members, amid resource constraints, and working with other stakeholders, have continued to provide the needed community support and sensitization in this regard – leading to high numbers of reported cases generally.
As an organization concerned with contributing to a society where women participate and benefit fully from national development endeavors, we additionally have the following concerns:
(E) Constitution Making Process
Regarding the amended Constitution, as an organization we were opposed to the route the Government took to amend the constitution, because Zambia has never had a people driven constitution since Independence (1964), whereas the underlying principle of a constitution is that it is given by the people to the government, and not the other way round. After a thorough analysis of the final Draft Constitution, there are a number of positive provisions that we feel would have advanced the status of women, especially a system of proportional representation system to increase the proportion of women in parliament, and provincial assemblies to increase women’s participation in a more decentralized form of government.
In addition, we are opposed to the holding of the National Referendum together with the general elections on 11th August 2016. Holding the two important national processes together has the potential to create confusion amongst the voters. It would be appropriate to hold the National Referendum separately from the general elections. The National Referendum, like the constitution itself, must be above and separate from party politics. We are concerned that while there is agreement that a National Referendum must be held, there is little that is being done in preparation, such as civic education of the citizenry on the content of the Bill of Rights, and putting in placea legal framework and budgetary provision to enable the Referendum process. Instead political players seem preoccupied with the politicking that comes with the General Election.
(F) promoting gender equality in decision making
The women’s movement commends Your Excellency for your commitment towards the appointment of women in decision making, such as your appointment of the first woman Vice President, and your appointment of the second successive women as Chief Justice. We also commend your political party’s pronouncement to reserve a 40 percent quota for the adoption of women at Parliamentary and Local Government levels. However, we note that this quota should be 50 percent according to Zambia’s commitments under the 2008 SADC Gender Protocol. We further commend your declaring that you will adopt a woman as your running mate in the August 11 elections.
Currently there are only 13% women at parliamentary level, 23% at cabinet level and 6% at local government level. A number of reasons have been advanced for the low level participation of women in politics; however, one of the reasons has generally been the decision by political parties not to adopt women as candidates for elections.
As an organization, we have been instrumental and party to the formulation of the Gender Equity and Equality Act. We are glad that this Act has come to effect as it seeks to domesticate the various international and regional instruments and has the provisions for the establishment of a Gender Equality Commission. We also take cognizance of your directive to a Ministerial Committee to work on operationalizing this very important institution.As an organization we envisage a professional Commission and hope that men and women appointed to run this institution will have the needed skill and integrity. Working with the Ministry of Gender, NGOCC is available to make some propositions for your further consideration as you make the said appointments.
(G) Political violence
As a women’s movement, we are concerned with the high levels of political violence in the country that seem to be escalating. Political violence is one of the reasons why women stayed away from politics, and the present situation is worse than ever before. Women feel unsafe to participate in politics with the high incidences of political violence. The wearing of military regalia by party cadres is not only intimidating and frightening, but also contravenes the provisions of the Public Order Act.
(H) High Cost of Living
The women’s movement is also concerned with the high cost of living and especially with the recent price hike and shortage of mealie-meal in the country.According to the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR), Basic Needs Basket, the cost of a monthly food basket for a family of six is about K4, 300, which is beyond the reach of most families and is indicative of the prevalence of poverty and malnutrition. The high price of fuel and the shortage and electricity have served to worsen the problems women face in household financing and management.
In conclusion, the women’s movement demands the following:
1. Quick transition to prudent economic management and fiscal discipline to stabilize the economy and eliminate the looming economic shut-down and deaths from hunger.
2. Hold a Referendum separate from the General Election to ensure the approval and subsequent enactment of the expanded Bill of Rights, which is critical to the wellbeing of women, youths, people with disability, the elderly and the poor, and which outlaws discrimination and introduces Social, Economic and Cultural Rights.
3. Implement the resolutions of the recently held indaba with political party leaders in order to avoid incidences of political violence; implement of the provisions of the Public Order Act which precludes the wearing of military style uniforms by party cadres. The Head of State should return Zambia to its reputation as a peaceful country by ensuring free and fair elections.
4. Quick appointment and operationalization of the Gender Equity and Equality Commission, which we envisage to be a professional body comprising women and men of integrity to ensure that gender discrimination is eliminated from Zambian society.
5. As Head of State,encourage political parties to adopt a quota of 50 percent women amongst candidates for political office, and to adopt clear workable procedures to ensure this result. and the Constitutional provision for enacting a Political parties act;
6. Spearhead the enactment of the Political Parties Act as provided by the amended Republican Constitution that ensures a quota of 50 percent women representation in the political process.
7. Retable in parliament the following constitutional amendments to:
(i) Introduce Proportional Representation into the electoral system, as in the original Draft Constitution, in order to increase women’s participation in politics
(ii) Introduce Provincial Assemblies, as in the original Draft Constitution, in order to include women and men at grassroots level to participate in the affairs affecting their lives.
8. Whilst we appreciate the accelerated efforts and your personal involvement and commitment through the HeForShe Campaign, we call upon your Excellency to take a keen interest into what is happening and support other locally initiated campaigns such as the Good Husband Campaign, I Care About Her Campaign, among others. It is our expectation Sir, that the much awaited Gender Based Violence Fund and shelters, as provided for in the Act, will soon be operationalized and made accessible to support the many survivors of violence, who mostly are women and girls.
I thank you.
Yours In-the-Service of the nation,
Sara Hlupekile Longwe