THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL Gender Organisations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) says government must consider setting up a Gender Commission as prescribed in the Gender Equity and Equality Act.

And Mulenga says the UPND government is trying its best, but there is need for more women to be appointed to decision-making positions.

In an interview, NGOCC chairperson Mary Mulenga said a Commission would be better placed to replace the Gender Ministry because it would enforce gender equality issues.

“I know there was a lot of talk about the new Ministries even the way cabinet has been appointed. If you have been following our arguments as NGOCC regarding the implementation for instance of the SADC protocols of gender 50/50 representation, we have said in the past that the Ministry of Gender was probably not very well placed to enforce gender equality issues in Ministries. A Ministry cannot command another Ministry. For instance, the Minister of Gender then could not go to Minister of Finance of any Ministry and ask how they are implementing because they are at the same level,” Mulenga said.

“We have been advocating for a Gender Commission which is a structure in the Gender Equity and Equality Act. So an Act is already there and the legal framework and one of the recommendations is to have a Commission. And I am sure if you are aware of how Commissions work, it could be prisons, education, you will see that they have a lot of power or authority and mandate to be able to police all institutions to ensure that that which they are advocating for is implemented. So a Commission would be better placed than a Ministry. So even if the Ministry has gone, I hope that the new government, President Hakainde Hichilema and his Alliance partners will seriously consider the setting up of a Gender Commission because this is what we have been crying for.”

Mulenga said the Gender Commission would facilitate the 50/50 representation, not just in politics but across all sectors.

“Every International Women’s Day for the last, I do not know how many years, is something that we have been telling the President who has been there to say could we please have government set up a Gender Commission because that will have an overlapping responsibility and will be able to implement that which we have been advocating for and ensure that the protocols that we have ratified as a country on gender equality and the 50/50 representation in decision making positions. It is not just in politics but we are saying cutting across and the Commission will be best placed to do that. So we are waiting that hopefully this time around we may have our Commission being set up,” she said.

Mulenga said NGOCC had already sent proposals on how the Commission would operate.

“One of the things that have been coming out, including the immediate past President, he actually even said ‘Mrs Mulenga, I am a lawyer and I know the importance of setting up a Commission but my colleagues have said there is no money. There are too many Commissions and there is no money’. So they have been saying that it is the issue of finances but what we have been saying and we wrote to the Secretary to the Cabinet to say ‘yes Commissions may be expensive but it is the structure that you have.’ As NGOCC, our proposal on how this Commission can be set up, we even advocated for part time commissioners instead of full time and a lean structure,” Mulenga said.

And Mulenga said the UPND government was trying their best, but added that there was need for more women to be appointed in decision-making positions.

“We actually prescribed how that Commission would be so that we try and deal with the issue of the finances. Maybe the way current Commissions are set up, it is expensive because they are too many, they are full time, they need vehicles and things like that. We actually set up a proposal to say set up a Gender Commission that looks like this so all that information is there. If the political will is there and if the new administration feels that participation of women including young people is something that is on their agenda, then definitely this is something that will be considered. We have been talking about leaving no one behind so I think it is time we got on actually not leaving people behind. So how do we take everyone on board? And I know so far, they are trying their best but we still want to see more women in decision-making positions,” said Mulenga.