VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
PRESIDENT Lungu has directed the Ministries of Local Government and Housing, Justice, Gender, and Cabinet to urgently make the Gender Equality Commission (GEC) operational.
And the President has reiterated that his running mate for the August 11, 2016 general elections will be a woman.
The President said efforts to operationalise the GEC will help in implementing the decentralisation principles enshrined in the constitution.
â€œTo a larger extent, these are some of the measures aimed at reducing inequalities that hinder women and girls from contributing to the socio-economic development of the country,â€ President Lungu said.
The President said the establishment of the GEC part 18 article 231 of the amended constitution is a step in the right direction because an enforcement mechanism for achieving gender equality has been placed at national, provincial and district levels.
President Lungu was speaking in Lusaka yesterday when he graced the commemoration of the International Womenâ€™s Day under the theme â€œPlanet 50:50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality.â€
The President said Government is in support of women empowerment and has enshrined gender equality principles in support of males and females as partners in the country.
â€œThe Gender Equality and Equity Bill, which Parliament passed in December 2015, seeks to reinforce the work of the Ministry of Gender and the Gender Equity Commission,â€ President Lungu said.
The President said Government desires to uplift the citizens, especially women, who make up 51 percent of the population, to be involved in decision-making to attain the 50:50 threshold participation in national affairs.
â€œMy commitment as President and as a United Nations Women goodwill ambassador is to address gender inequalities, empower women and girls while not leaving men and boys behind,â€ President Lungu said.
He also underscored his commitment to having a woman as his running mate in the August 11 elections.
The head of State also reaffirmed that the Patriotic Front (PF) has set aside 40 percent of all elective positions for women and that he is looking forward to the 50:50 representation â€œin the not too distant futureâ€.
Mr Lungu further directed PF structures at all levels to adhere to the principle as the party carries out the adoption process of candidates.
The President also challenged other political parties to publicly state their gender agenda in the August 11 general elections as their commitment to attain gender equality is important to the nation.
â€œThe Ministry of Gender is working in collaboration with the Ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock, Commerce, Trade and Industry, Youth, Sports and Child Development and Chiefs and Traditional Affairs in re-designing the women empowerment programmes,â€ President Lungu said.
The President said Government wants to widen the economic base from being agricultural focused to an economic activity and increasing womenâ€™s capacities for them (women) to successfully establish and operate cooperatives.
He implored the minister of Gender to accelerate the coordination of the design and implementation of an inter-ministerial committee on womenâ€™s empowerment programmes based on the cooperatives model.
â€œI expect this proposal to be considered by Cabinet by May 2016,â€ President Lungu said
Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) board chairperson Sara Longwe commended Government for the strides taken to enhance the participation of women in decision-making and uplifting the general situation of women.
â€œI call upon the government to put in more effort to ensure that women fully participate in the development process and are well represented,â€ Ms Longwe said.
She urged women, especially those in rural areas to stand and demand to be counted in the development process to uplift their own situation and that of their children.
And United Nations (UN) resident coordinator Janet Rogan said the Zambian constitution sets out the principle and the target: gender equality in public affairs in line with the theme – Planet 50:50 by 2030.
Ms Rogan said women in Zambia have a great opportunity to advance in many areas this year under the updated constitution.
â€œPeople have all sorts of excuses as to why there are few women in politics pointing to the lack of financial backing among other reasons, but every woman has to start from somewhere,â€ Ms Rogan said.
And in a vote of thanks, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) executive director Pukuta Mwanza commended Government for the special role played in enhancing the participation of women in society.
Reverend Mwanza also commended the PF administration for setting aside the 40 percent positions at all levels to women as appealed to other political parties to make their stance known on women inclusion.
He also appealed to all political parties to refrain from using hate speech which, he said, usually results in violence and impact on women and children in the process.
Earlier, President Lungu toured stands put up by various organisations, including the Zambia Daily Mail.
VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka