President Edgar Lungu says it is difficult for women to achieve gender equality with a shipikisha (silent endurance to injustice) mentality.

And President Lungu says there is need for revolutionary thinking in tackling gender inequalities to ensure increased women’s participation in decision-making and economic empowerment programmes.

Meanwhile, the Head of State says there are still “old-fashioned men” out there who never appreciate women as their partners in national development.

Speaking when he officiated at the 2019 Women’s Day Celebrations held under the theme: ‘Think Equal, Build Smart and Innovate for Change’ in Lusaka, Friday, the President concurred with UN resident coordinator Janet Rogan that shipikisha must end.

He also saluted FDD leader Edith Nawakwi, former NGOCC chairperson Sara Longwe and late Lucy Sichone for helping to move the Zambian gender agenda forward.

“So to the women, the tone was set by these great women: therefore, always think equal, build smart and innovate for change in fighting gender-based discrimination. Do not suffer in silence, madam [Janet Rogan] you repeatedly said ‘shipikisha no more!’ Stop ukushipikisha (suffering in silence). That message was very loud and clear: challenge the status quo and enjoy your rights in full as a woman!”

And President Lungu regretted that women were still overburdened by poverty and continued to face challenges in accessing justice, social and economic opportunities.

The Head of State observed that gender inequalities and discrimination had also worsened by the deep-rooted cultural and traditional practices, which promoted male dominance and the subordination of women and girls.

“The objective of celebrating this day is to recollect the political, social and economic achievements of women. In this regard, I would like to pay glowing tribute to the women, who early in the 19th Century decided to fight gender-based oppression and discrimination and win the right to vote. This year, the International Women’s Day is being celebrated under the theme: “Think equal, Build smart, Innovate for change.” This theme calls for all countries, including Zambia, to adopt a transformative agenda, integrated approaches and employment of new solutions in tackling gender inequalities in all spheres of development. Though progress has been made at policy and legislative levels, gender inequalities and violation of women’s and girls’ rights have continued to be pervasive in our communities, and across all sectors. Therefore, there is need for revolutionary thinking. It is time to make extraordinary progress in tackling gender inequalities,” President Lungu said.

“As a nation, we have made progress in a number of areas. We have achieved parity at primary school level of education. We have significantly increased women’s participation in decision-making at strategic levels, including in politics and there are more women’s economic empowerment programmes. However, there is still more to be done. Women are still overburdened by poverty. They continue to face challenges in accessing justice, social and economic opportunities. The gender inequalities and discrimination continue to be worsened by deep-rooted cultural and traditional practices, which promote male dominance and the subordination of women and girls. It is clear that though we are progressing well in the implementation of gender equality and empowerment programmes in our country, we need to enhance these efforts if we are to realise the targets as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals and planet 50:50 by 2030.”

He pointed to some of the efforts government had made to quicken progress towards achieving gender equality and women empowerment.

“This we are doing through the following: Ratification of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. This is an instrument put in place by the United Nations to promote women’s rights; adopting the Sustainable Development Goals as part of the guiding framework for managing development, as we seek to achieve the Vision 2030, where Zambia seeks to be free from gender inequalities in all spheres of development; adopting equality and non-discrimination among its national principles and values through the Constitution of Zambia amendment Act no. 2 of 2016. It is expected that all citizens shall live by these principles and values; enacting the Gender Equity and Equality Act no.22 of 2015 in order to deal with the root causes of discrimination. This law prohibits all forms of discrimination, especially gender-based discrimination; enacting the Anti-Gender Based Violence Act number 1 of 2011 to protect the victims of gender-based violence and adopting the National Gender Policy of 2014 and the Seventh National Development Plan, which seeks to reduce developmental inequalities,” he explained.

And speaking earlier after touring the stands at the Showgrounds, President Lungu realised that there were still “old-fashioned” men who never appreciated women as their partners in national development.

“I would be more impressed if men appreciated what women have to offer. There are already a lot of men who are in fact old-fashioned and just difficult to get them to appreciate that a woman is as good or even better than a man. I think we need men with a positive attitude towards women,” said President Lungu.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same event, UN Resident Coordinator Janet Rogan called on government to expedite the implementation of necessary Bills that were cardinal to promoting the rights of women.

“In 2016, the referendum to amend the Bill of Rights did not pass and without it, there is a deficit rights protection in this country even though the Constitution enshrines non-discrimination of and recognises the equal work of women and men. This needs to be dealt with. Second, the Anti-GBV Act. The fast-track court for GBV cases are showing people that there is a route to justice. Some chiefs are already changing to end child marriage, this needs to happen in every chiefdom across the land, your royal highnesses. Third, the Land Bill needs to be finalised and brought to Parliament. In the meantime, government policy to allocate land should be implemented properly. Finally, there needs to be a strong agenda throughout the public service and the private sector to introduce measures for the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse in the work place,” advised Rogan.