First Lady Esther Lungu says rural women are key in fighting poverty because they are the primary agents of change.

ending poverty in Zambia and other developing countries will depend on the attention given to

This is according to a statement issued by Permanent Mission of the Republic of Zambia to the United Nations First Secretary for Press and Public Relations Chibaula Silwamba yesterday.

Speaking at the 61st Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), an annual meeting focusing on women and girl’s welfare worldwide on Monday, Esther observed that Zambia had won international respect for its agenda on women.

“Ending poverty in Zambia and other developing countries will depend on the attention given to rural women, who are the primary agents of change in the fight against hunger and poverty in their communities,” Esther said.

“In Zambia, we are stepping up, but of course more needs to be done. The President of Zambia His Excellency Mr Edgar Lungu has directed that the policy on allocating 50 per cent of state land to women must be enforced without fail.”

She also observed that extreme poverty manifested mostly in rural areas of developing nations.

“In the developing world, rural agriculture is the sustenance of the majority of people, in particular women. We all agree that extreme poverty manifests mostly in rural areas of developing countries where statistics indicate that on average, women comprise 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force and contribute 70 percent of labour,” Esther said.

Esther said she would continue to advocate for change in order to address deep rooted cultural gender inequalities.

“As First Lady, advocacy continues to be top on my agenda and is focusing on tackling social-cultural norms, attitudes and behaviours that need elimination or adjustment. I have engaged the spouses of traditional leaders to be the transformational champions in addressing deep rooted cultural gender inequalities in rural areas,” Esther said.

Meanwhile the First Lady said effects of climate change such as drought and flooding lead to many women losing their crops, which was their only investment.

“This forces them to seek employment from emergent and large scale farmers where they face risks that come with lifting heavy loads; harsh weather conditions and exposure to chemicals just to mention a few.  Rural women work long hours earning low, unstable incomes let alone being least appreciated,” said Lungu.

“I speak with passion and give firsthand testimony having had the opportunity to traverse the rural areas of Zambia, and I am sure I speak for many women in developing nations, who have for a long time been shackled with the chains of harsh conditions,” she said.

The Commission on the Status of Women opened on Monday at United Nations Headquarters in New York and will run up to 24 March 2017.It was a side-event co-organised by FAO, IFAD, WFP, UN Women, the EU and the Permanent Mission of Slovak to the UN under the theme: “Step It Up Together with Rural Women to End Hunger and Poverty”