Women are a powerful force for change globally. Through these past years we have seen a great shift by women with global movements such as the MeToo movement. Similar to other social justice and empowerment movements based upon breaking silence, the purpose of “Me Too”, as initially voiced by Tarana Burke as well as those who later adopted the tactic, is to empower women through empathy and solidarity through strength in numbers, especially young and vulnerable women, by visibly demonstrating how many women have survived sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. This movement made woman all over the world realize the importance of standing together and empowering each other, therefore it is essential for Zambians to be part of this wave.
Zambia has taken a lot of steps in the right direction. The nation realizes that in order to enjoy a brighter future, it must educate all members of the household and strive for women’s empowerment in Zambia. The female Vice President of Zambia, Inonge Wina, made a statement in August of this year wherein she commended the nation for making great strides in not only championing for women’s empowerment in Zambia, but also in taking practical steps in appointing women to positions of leadership. However, there is [still a] need to adopt laws in our country and policies that empower women and enhance their leadership roles and equitable participation in governance, politics and in the labor force, It is important for women to be empowered in many aspects. Focus areas include education, health, early pregnancy, safety and general making a living, but to mention a few.
Women face higher unemployment rate, persistent wage gaps, and longer school-to-work transition. The causes that prevent them to access a decent job are sadly well-known: lack of access to resources, early marriages and pregnancies, discrimination in recruitment and conditions of work, lack of recognition by men outside households. Mentalities need to be changed and we have a long way to go. First, women must have the opportunity to access education (according to UNICEF, there would also be an effect on child marriage that would drop by 64% if women had access to secondary education). Second, gender equality must become a reality (which is sometimes difficult in countries where the position of women is unequally established at the earliest stages and cannot be changed). This is really important because we know (and many reports have shown it for years) that empowering women and giving them the opportunity to make their own choices for an active participation in the economy makes a huge difference on many fronts.
A facet of life in which women face disadvantages is decision making at household level. Their low participation in decision making is enmeshed in a complex web of cultural norms, traditional practices and patriarchal attitudes that are entrenched in society and perpetuate male domination in leadership. Decisions and preferences in the home setting tend to prioritize the needs of the boy or male over those of the girl child or females. Women are not expected to participate actively and influentially over decision making. This situation has led to the persistence of challenges such as lack of confidence and assertiveness among females
Promoting gender equality is one of the most effective ways to drive inclusive growth and reduce poverty. Zambian culture tends to be patriarchal and as such in overall terms women face far more disadvantage than men in all facets of life. Many communities still abide by the traditional family roles of women with three out of four households run by men. In this family structure, it is usually the responsibility of the women to care for the family and provide all necessities, such as food, shelter and clothing. An empowered woman would be able to meet the needs of her family more efficiently and effectively. With access to education, a woman might help maintain the family finances or work while caring for the family.
Despite the gender gap, there are promising signs for women’s empowerment in Zambia. Beyond the national laws and policies, Zambia is signatory to international instruments for the protection of women’s and children’s rights including the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol, The African Union (AU) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to mention but a few.
Many governments, foreign and private organizations are working to promote awareness, create equal access to resources and support women who are stepping out of their traditional roles. With promising initiatives that support women in business and technology fields, Zambia is beginning its long journey toward women’s empowerment