Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) chairperson Sara Longwe says Zambian women are in a worse economic situation now than in the old times before the country got its independence.

Longwe told News Diggers in an interview in commemoration of International Women’s Day which fell yesterday that there was need for the government to wake up to its responsibility of improving the lives of citizens and using the national budget for what it was designed for.

She also asked government to stop using the police to brutalise students when they ask for what is due to them or to harass women when they take cases of abuse to court.

“The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations ‘Time is now for activists to transform the lives of women in rural and urban areas’ is a great title because it recognises what the women’s movement has been doing, which is to speak out on behalf of our women folk who are not readily able to speak out about things that are facing them. As women activists and other human rights activists, we would like this pronouncement to be put in place and acted upon to transform people’s lives. The lives of women, whether in rural or urban, are not changing for the better, they’re getting worse. I remember I was a teenager when we got independence but I can see that women are in a worse situation than they were at independence and before,” Longwe said.

“This is a bad thing for a country that has been in self rule for 54 years now. We can’t be seeing the kind of poverty we are seeing now, my parents never saw this abject poverty. At independence, I never went to a compound which was smelling of feacal matter, we never had this. So really, who has been enjoying our independence? It’s not the women obviously. So for a women movement, we would like this to be the center of the international women’s day celebration as we continue reflecting on what can be done better.”

She said her organisation would continue working with other human rights activists to bring government to account for public resources.

“We are actually very happy that the activists have been recognised because we also want to be listened to and our actions should be taken seriously and more resources should be given to the delivery of services to make sure that no woman gives birth in a pig style labour room, no woman dies while giving birth and that no woman is starving with her children. The time is now to transform women’s rights wherever they are. For us as NGOCC, we shall continue to voice out, and where we have resources, we will take action. We have a funding basket from which we fund women activists,” said Longwe.

“Therefore, the government should also do what is expected of it, which is to improve people’s lives. Government should use the budget for what it is designed for, not having a budget for medicine but when someone goes to the hospital, there is no medicine. Having a budget to pay salaries for teachers but teachers are not getting their salaries. The students are not getting their allowances, thereby forcing them to demonstrate. And the government, instead of taking heed of the requests and the rightful demands from students, they are brutalizing them using the police. The police must be a friend of people and especially of women as well, women are harassed, they take cases to court about abuse but these cases are never taken seriously.”