NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale says it is disappointing that President Edgar Lungu did not address how the lacunas in the Constitution would be dealt with in his address to Parliament.

In an interview News Diggers! today, Mwale also said she was disappointed that President Lungu did not address the need for a Referendum to pass the Bill of Rights which the Non Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council had been pushing for.

“NGOCC has noted pronouncements made by President Edgar Lungu during the official opening of the second session of the 12th National Assembly last week. With regard to the Constitutional process and the national referendum, we are disappointed that the President did not give a clear direction in terms of lacunas in the 2016 Amended Constitution. We are disappointed that the President did not address himself to holding the National referendum for the inclusion of the expanded bill of rights in the Constitution. This remains a critical area of concern for the country’s democratic dispensation. We have said this before and I wish to repeat that the socio-economic rights are critical for the wellbeing of women and children, we therefore urge government to prioritise the holding of the National Referendum soon,” Mwale said.

Mwale however welcomed government’s decision to diversify the country’s economy by moving away from over dependence on copper to agricultural activities.

“Over the years, successive governments have talked about the diversification of the economy from reliance on Copper to Agriculture and the President has also reiterated the urgent need to diversify the economy, it is our expectation that government will immediately move to put in place measures that will accurate the diversification programme. The need for government to allocate adequate resources to the agriculture sector is critical for diversification to be realized and these resources must be channeled through rural areas,” she said.

“It is a fact that most peasant farmers are women and directing resources to rural areas will produce a win win situation in the fight against poverty. It is important for the country to address itself to deliberate measures and policies that will be targeted at addressing rural poverty which bears the face of a woman. As an organisation, we welcome government’s ambitious programme to develop the livestock sector and specifically the growing of goats. The measure to address inequalities is welcome but we however expect that there will be deliberate policies put in place to narrow these inequalities.”

Meanwhile, Mwale wondered why some of the pronouncements which were made in 2016 like distributing sanitary towels in schools had not been implemented.

“On education, we welcome the keeping girls in school programme that targets to reach out to 14,000 girls from vulnerable families. However, we note that this initiative has been in 2017 budget but no clear criteria has been prescribed in the Presidential address on how it went about. In the 2017 national budget, government also proposed the distribution of sanitary towels to girls in peri-urban and rural areas but this hasn’t been actualized and hence our appeal is for government to address this issue and I also want to call upon the Minister of Finance to address himself to this important aspect in the 2018 budget formulation,” said Mwale.