The First Lady of the Republic of Zambia Esther Lungu has called for adoption of sound work place policies that will ensure elimination of all forms of gender based violence, particularly sexual harassment, from workplaces.
Mrs. Lungu said there was need to ensure equal pay and remuneration for women and men holding the same positions in the workplace.
The First lady made the call when she spoke at a side event on “Elimination of Violence against Women in the Work Place” organized by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), UN Women, Zambian Mission to the UN and ZONTA International on the sidelines of the on-going 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) in New York, which runs from 13 to 24 March 2017.
Mrs. Lungu said the work environment world-over is expected to be a place where employment ethics, respect for women and equal treatment of all workers should be upheld.
“However, to this date, women are subjected to all forms of abuse and unfair treatment at work places. From the whole spectrum of employee engagement, training, performance appraisals and rewards, women continue to be the subject of unfair labour practices, discrimination and violence,” Mrs. Lungu said. “It is important to interrogate how best we can promote safe and secure working environments for all workers in particular women, whether they be migrant workers, domestic workers, farm workers or technical and professional women.”
The First Lady noted that women’s limited bargaining power coupled with unfavorable national labour laws and policies often leave millions of workers particularly women, unprotected and without recourse in the face of gender-based discrimination and work place violence.
However, Mrs. Lungu expressed optimism that in the next 15 years, she foresees positive outcomes in the investments made towards girls’ education. She said it is hoped the girls of today will make a positive workforce of the future.
“It is my firm belief that the awareness raising programmes and other advocacy efforts being made by different organisations such as the Zonta International, ILO, the UN as well as civil society organisations and government at national level will greatly contribute to economically empowering the girls and women and ensure that they are socially protected,” Mrs. Lungu said.
The First Lady highlighted Zambia’s legislation reforms that were taking care of the interest of women and girls, including the Industrial Relations and Employment Act, which prohibit discrimination of an employee on grounds of race, sex, marital status, religion, political opinion or affiliation, tribal extraction or social status.
She said the Zambian Government has enacted a comprehensive legislation on Anti-Gender Based Violence Act of 2011, which prohibits all forms of violence against women and girls and offers a comprehensive framework for protection, shelters and funds for empowerment as well as, the prosecution of perpetrators of violence be it male or female.
“In 2015 the Government enacted the Gender Equity and Equality Act, which domesticates the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the African Charter on Human and the Rights of Women and other regional protocols,” said Mrs. Lungu. “One area requiring strengthening is research especially in developing countries like Zambia. Currently, data and information is inadequate and uncoordinated, therefore, areas like occupational violence and psychological abuse resulting from violence against women in the workplace are difficult to address.”
And contributing to the discussion, Policy Monitoring and Research Centre (PMRC) Executive Director Bernadette Deka called for third beneficiary in the social cash transfer scheme, a Zambian Government programme running under the Ministry of Community Development.
Ms. Deka was responding to Zonta International representative, who spoke of the need to aid girl children through social welfare schemes.
Ms. Deka said the Social Cash Transfer should extend to rural young girls, to empower them with their education.