The Zambia National Women’s Lobby (ZNWL) reviews the year 2019 from a gender perspective.
WOMEN’S ACCESSION AND PARTICIPATION IN LEADERSHIP AND DECISION MAKING IN 2019
The ZNWL observed some positive developments with some women ascending to leadership and decision-making positions in the political and private sectors in 2019.
The organisation was pleased with the election of three women councillors to the position of Deputy Council Chairperson of their respective District Councils. Bunda Bunda ward Councillor Ms. Maria Mwale was elected Deputy Council Chairperson of the Rufunsa District Council, while Mpunde ward Councillor Ms. Bernadatte Chabakale got elected as Deputy Council Chairperson of the Kapiri Mposhi District Council. Ms. Sharon Palicha of Ngombe Ilede ward, was elected as Deputy Council Chairperson of the Chirundu District Council. The election of the three councillors increased the number of female Deputy Council Chairpersons /Deputy Mayors from 16 to 19 translating into 16 percent. Additionally, Ms. Enelesi Nyirenda was elected ward councillor for Mangango ward in Kaoma district.
Some positive developments in the private sector regarding women ascending to leadership positions included the appointment of Ms. Mitwa Kaemba Ng’ambi as MTN Chief Executive Officer in Rwanda. Ms Nga’mbi was previously working for MTN in Zambia. Ms. Susan Mulikita was also appointed Chief Executive Officer of Liquid Telecom Zambia making her the first woman to hold this position.
However, 2019 also saw the reduction of the number of women in leadership positions in the political and public sectors due to deaths and revocation of appointments.
In 2019 alone, Zambia lost two female Members of Parliament (MP) and one female Councillor to death. Honourable Patricia Mwanshingwele who was MP for Katuba constituency passed on in May 2019, while Chilubi MP, Honourable Rosaria Fundanga died in November 2019. At local government level, one female councillor, Ms. Godfridah Chulu of Lubwa ward in Kitwe district died in May 2019.
Thus, from the 130 female councilors who were elected in 2016, there are currently only 125 from a total of 1,624. At parliamentary level, from the 30 female MPs who were serving in 2016, only 26 are remaining. What is even more saddening is that almost all the women leaders both at parliamentary and local government levels who passed on have been replaced by men, thereby causing the reduction in the number of women in leadership positions. We therefore implore political parties to consider adopting women whenever there are by elections taking place. This will help to maintain and increase the number of women in decision making at parliamentary and local government levels.
ZNWL also noted with sadness the dismissal of Ms. Margaret Mwanakatwe from the position of Finance Minister as well as the revocation of the nomination of Ms. Mumbi Phiri as Member of Parliament in July 2019. Our comment on this matter was that ZNWL respects the prerogative of the appointing authority to withdraw or indeed revoke any nomination or appointment. However, the decision meant a further reduction in the number of women in Parliament and in Cabinet. The two women could have been replaced with other capable females.
In 2019, we also saw Ms. Mulenga Kapwepwe’s appointment as Board Chairperson of the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation being terminated in December, a situation which has reduced the number of women in the Boards.
We hope that in 2020, more women will ascend to leadership and decision making positions in the public and private sectors to improve the situation. We are also hopeful that processes that can facilitate women’s increased participation in leadership such as the Gender Equality and Equity Act, will be effectively implemented to help increase women’s participation in decision making positions.
WOMEN’S ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN 2019
In 2019, the cost of living continued to increase beyond the capacity of many Zambian households. The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection Basic Needs Basket for a family of five in Lusaka increased to ZMW 5,331 in the first quarter of 2019. The price of mealie meal and other essential food items continued to rise, making access to nutritious meals impossible for the majority of citizens. This has been compounded by constant electricity power cuts, which have increased the cost of living as well as the cost of doing business for many citizens.
Women have been more affected as they remain more economically vulnerable with the majority being in the informal and small scale industry, which have suffered shocks due to the depreciation of the kwacha and soaring lending rates. The result has been widespread economic pressures and increased household poverty amongst many. The effected increases on electricity tariffs and fuel is expected to worsen the already volatile economic environment.
GENDER BASED VIOLENCE IN 2019
In 2019, we witnessed an increase in reported cases of child sexual abuse with some of the most horrific cases ever recorded in the history of the country. Among the shocking cases was the defilement of a three day old baby in Luapula Province by her biological father. The baby later died from injuries sustained during the ordeal. Another shocking case was the defilement and murder of a seven year old girl child by unknown people in Eastern Province.
According to the Zambia Police, a total of 1,343 cases of girl child defilement cases were recorded in the second and third quarters of 2019 alone. The highest number in both the first and second quarter was recorded in Lusaka with Central, Southern and Eastern Provinces also recording high number of incidences.
What is perplexing about these cases is that in most incidences, the perpetrators are people who should ideally be the ones to guarantee the safety of the girl child like the father, uncle, brother or male cousin. Homes and schools which should be safe spaces for the girl child are now high risk areas. The wellbeing of the girl child is being threatened and urgent action needs to be taken to curtail this unfortunate behavior. Actions toward the reduction in sexual child abuse should include men and boys as they are the main perpetrators and possess the power and authority that should be exercised to reduce the challenge and not escalate it.
ZNWL has also noted the continued withdrawal of cases of the physical kind of GBV. This trend shows how complex the problem is as perpetrators are often intimate partners or close family members on which the victims usually depend upon for their needs. The ZNWL pledges continued efforts in sensitizing the public on GBV issues.
EXPECTATIONS OF 2020
In 2020, ZNWL expects that Government will put in place measures that will ensure that the economy does not continue to decline and further provide correct welfare support to those needing help, especially the women. ZNWL calls for more pragmatic approaches towards among other things the servicing of Government debt to reduce adverse effects on the already economically challenged citizenry. It is also expected that the Government will put in place measures that will address the increase in the cost of living which is adversely affecting women especially those who are heading homes.
In 2020, ZNWL also expects political parties to promote tolerance of divergent views in the build up to the 2021 general elections. This is important for the maintenance of peace in the country and it will also encourage women to participate in politics when peace prevails. We also implore the political parties to already put in place measures that will enable more women to be adopted in both the party structures and as candidates in 2021. We also encourage women with political leadership aspirations to already begin positioning themselves for adoption and election in 2021.
We expect the Government to put in place modalities for the full implementation of the Gender Equality and Equity Law through the establishment of the Gender Commission.
In conclusion, we are happy to end the year with other noteworthy achievements by women that include the development of a rapid Ebola Virus Disease diagnostic test kit by Dr. Katendi Changula. The other exceptional achievement is the academic performance of Ms. Mable Musabi who is the first student to ever graduate with a distinction in civil engineering at the Copperbelt University.
In 202O, ZNWL will continue to promote women’s accession and participation in leadership and decision making through various programmes. These will include capacity development of both elected women and aspiring women leaders and the creation of linkages amongst women for mentorship and knowledge sharing on matters of leadership and development.
We thank all our cooperating partners for their continued support which enables us to contribute to the promotion of women’s participation in leadership and decision making in Zambia.
ZNWL wishes all the women and men of Zambia a productive 2020.
Ms. Beauty Katebe
National Board Chairperson