JIMMY CHIBUYE, Choma
THE crusade for the attainment of gender equality under the HeForShe campaign in Zambia is gaining steady momentum.
Undoubtingly, the campaign in Zambia is deepening its roots in the minds of many Zambians following its maiden introduction into the country by President Lungu in July this year.
The United Nations (UN) Women Movement for Gender Equality, in June this year, at the African Union summit held in South Africa, appointed President Lungu as the promoter for the â€œHeForSheâ€ campaign.
President Lunguâ€™s appointment came as a result of his governmentâ€™s resolve to end child marriages and promotion as well as appointing of women into key positions in various sectors.
The HeForShe campaign, which is sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Zambia, advocates gender equality and targets men who are gender sensitive.
The campaign can best be defined as a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.
The HeForShe commitment form states: â€œI am one of billions of men who believe equality for women is a basic human right that benefits us all. And I commit to taking action against gender discrimination and violence in order to build a more just and equal world. I am HeForShe.â€
It was initiated by the UN in September 2014 as a tool for advocating gender equality, aiming at engaging boys and girls, men and women alike as agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and womenâ€™s rights.
The campaign has been launched in Eastern, Central, Copperbelt, Lusaka and Southern provinces.
The localised theme for the campaign is â€˜Harnessing leadership for gender equality in Zambiaâ€™.
The Southern Province HeForShe campaign launch drew representatives at different leadership levels from the church, academia, the media and traditional leaders.
In Southern Province, it has brightened the spirits and raised hopes of traditional leaders who believe the crusade will foster the respect of womenâ€™s and girlâ€™s rights.
The official launch of the provincial campaign drew over 20 chiefs out of the 33 in the province.
â€œMost farmers have complained of the poor seed varieties that have caused them to abandon planting the crop owing to a lack of government support,â€â€œThe issues of gender equality exist in elderly couples, but it is good that these matters are now going to our young boys and girls through the HeForShe campaign,â€ she said.
Chief Simwatachela said gender equality should be indorsed by all traditional leaders because it creates an enabling environment for development.
Another traditional leader, Chief Moyo said: â€œMy desire is that in future, we have a female [republican] President and that women in decision-making positions becomes outnumber us.â€
Gender equality is no doubt an important factor in the development of a country. This can be noted by an old and tired adage, but still carries weight in such matters, educate a girl child to develop the country.
To demonstrate the importance, gender equality has been included on the list of 17 goals that need to be achieved by 2030 under the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
UNDP country director Martim Maya says the HeForShe campaign aims at addressing the concerns of women especially those behaviours and stereotypes that favour men by making women look and feel inferior in society.
Mr Maya is happy with the commitment attached to the campaign in Zambia, describing the movement as unique.
â€œThe Zambian campaign is unique in that it is more than just an advocacy campaign. It seeks to change mindsets, social values and norms. It seeks to change both institutional and individual behaviour for promotion of gender equality,â€ he said.
Mr Maya observed that the intervention will target nurturing male leaders in Zambia in three arms of Government, private sector, academia, chiefs and churches.
The listed groups are expected to make a stand, raise their voices on gender equality issues and take action in their organisations to make a difference.
Southern Province Minister Nathaniel Mubukwanu noted that during the implementation of the programme, there will be a need to revisit some of the countryâ€™s traditions and education syllabi taught to boys and girls during initiation ceremonies.
Mr Mubukwanu said in a speech read for him by permanent secretary Sibanza Simuchoba the role of the chiefs in the campaign is key because of the respect and traditional authority they command.
To aptly signify its importance to sustainable development, gender equality has been placed among the top 10 global goals on number six.
It is actually phrased:
â€œSustainable development cannot, therefore, be realised if countries continue to sideline women and girls.â€
With the launching of the HeForShe campaign at provincial level and President Lunguâ€™s recognition of the significance of women in national development, Zambia therefore, seems to be on the right path towards achieving gender equality.
JIMMY CHIBUYE, Choma