SPEAKER of the National Assembly Nelly Mutti says it is regrettable that the number of female members of parliament has regressed to 15 percent in the 13th National Assembly from 18.1 percent in the 12th Assembly.
And Non-Governmental Gender Organizations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) board chairperson Mary Mulenga says Zambia has missed an opportunity to narrow the gender gap by achieving the 50-50 women representation.
Speaking during the introductory engagement between the female members of parliament and the women’s movement, Tuesday, Speaker Mutti said the numbers of women being elected to parliament was disappointing.
“The result that we have seen in terms of women getting elected as members of parliament has been disappointing to say the least. As you may be aware, Zambia went to the polls on the 12th of August 2021 which ushered in the 13th Assembly in raising 141 male parliamentarians and only 25 female parliamentarians and this includes the Speaker, the vice-president and the vice deputy speaker translating into 85 percent for men and only 15 percent for female representation. It is however regrettable that the number of female MPs has regressed from 15 percent in the 13th National Assembly compared to 18.1 percent in the 12th Assembly. We of course have a vacancy with one of the members for Kaumbwe Constituency,” Speaker Mutti said.
She noted that women faced challenges which hindered them from participating in decision making positions including gender based violence.
“As a woman, I am aware of numerous challenges that hinder our women from effectively participating in decision making positions. These include; gender based violence, socio economic status and deep rooted unequal gender relationships in which men are considered to be superior to women. And for this, you will be amazed that in terms of statistics, women constitute a higher population even in terms of voting, the women are more voters, the women are the ones who turn out to go and vote but it’s amazing that in terms of voting for our fellow women or women’s participation in politics is still very low. There must be a bigger reason why but I think you know the reason,” she said.
Speaker Mutti said if men were allowed to make decisions on behalf of women, they would be more inclined to favouring themselves.
“Even for me, I never ever dreamt to be a politician because first of all, my father said never be involved in politics because when you enter politics, you are looked down upon, the language that is used is unpalatable and as women, we deserve to be respected so we don’t want our names to be pulled in the mud so maybe that is the reason why women don’t participate. I think we need to introspect and see what it is that we are failing as women to ensure that women participate more in politics. Because it is from politics that decision making positions can be attained by women. And if you allow men to make the decisions on our behalf of course they will be more inclined to favoring themselves than ourselves. And the only thing that can take us from this problem of not fully participating in decision making positions is ourselves as women,” said Speaker Mutti.
Meanwhile, Mulenga said the number of women elected to both parliament and local government fell far below the acceptable standards.
“While more women than ever are being elected to parliament and other public bodies around the world, equality is still a long way off, and current progress is far too slow. For example, during the just ended elections, Zambia has once again missed the opportunity to narrow the gender gap on achieving the 50-50 women representation. The number of women elected to both parliament and local government falls far below the acceptable standards as prescribed by the various regional and international conventions Zambia is party to,” Mulenga said.
She noted that women continued to be systematically discriminated against as far as taking up roles in decision making.
“The Women’s movement remains proud of you all for braving the odds to participate in Zambia’s political landscape that is largely male dominated. This is evidence that our society remains patriarchal amid the various cultural and social norms that continue to hinder women to progress into public spaces as leaders. As you may be aware, women’s participation in decision making and indeed politics has remained unacceptably low. Over the last 36 years of NGOCC existence, we have been advocating and implementing programs aimed at increasing women’s participation in politics and decision making positions. I am sad to mention that despite these efforts, women continue to be systematically discriminated against, in as far as taking up roles in decision making. This is further exacerbated by the lack of an enabling legal and policy framework,” she said.
Mulenga urged the MPs to operationalise the gender equity and equality act by establishing the gender commission.
“In view of the above, our prayer is to see legislators focus on practical and effective measures to help in narrowing the gender divide between women and men. It is our desire to see workable strategies that will emancipate the poor and vulnerable mostly women and girls at all levels of development. It is our appeal to the new leadership to operationalize the gender equity and equality act by establishing the gender commission. May I take this opportunity to appeal to you, our elected MPs, to be the torch bearers. In the House as champions of gender equality. As fellow women, you understand the numerous challenges that we face in the various facets of life. No better person can articulate the challenges of a poor health system, poor water reticulation system, inadequate nutrition or the adverse effects of climate change than us women,” said Mulenga.