MWAPE MWENYA, Lusaka
YOUNG Women Christian Association (YWCA) executive director Patricia Ndhlovu has described 2015 as progressive in dealing with issues of gender-based violence (GBV) defilement, early and child marriages.
Ms Ndhlovu congratulated government on the tremendous strides in fighting vices that endanger the lives of women and girls, through the establishment of GBV fast-track courts, the passing of the Gender Equity and Equality Bill in Parliament and the Child Marriage Bill which will be launched soon.
Some of the contentious clauses in the Gender Equity and Equality Bill will be the need to end all forms of segregation and for men and women to be equal partners in development.
The Marriage Bill will advocate for the adoption of 18 years as a legal age for girls to get married.
Ms Ndhlovu is optimistic that once all these programmes are implemented, the country will see a reduction in cases of vices that are robbing women and girls of their rights.
Recently, President Edgar Lungu said child marriages should be eradicated completely and girls who are in marriages should be encouraged to go back to school.
The President made the pronouncement during the first-ever African Union girlsâ€™ summit that was hosted in Lusaka last month.
â€œI am not interested in fighting the scourge [early marriages] I just want it to be eradicated completely,â€ President Lungu said.
Child marriage is a serious challenge that requires political will and concerted efforts from various stakeholders such as traditional and church leaders, government and the community at large.
The stance taken by President Lungu won him kudos from various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the church who are working hard to end the vice.
The President is among other African leaders who include Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Peter Mutharika of Malawi who have shown commitment to end child marriages.
Since his election early this year, President Lungu has been in the limelight as a champion for gender equality.
He demonstrated this when he appointed the first ever female Vice-President Inonge Wina and other women in high-ranking positions in Government.
This also won him recognition at the 25th African Union summit that was held in South Africa under the theme Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africaâ€™s Agenda 2063.
It was during the summit that the President was appointed champion of the UN Women Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality under the motto HeForShe being spearheaded by former South African Minister of Mines Dr Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka
The HeforShe campaign is a solidarity movement of gender equality that wants men and boys to come together to help end inequalities toward women and girls. In Zambia it is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Gender with the support the United Nations.
President Lungu launched the campaign in Misolo village in Chief Nyamphande area, Petauke earlier this year where he made a passionate appeal for everyone to get involved in the campaign so that gender inequality is eradicated.
In his congratulatory message, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Chishimba Kambwili said the appointment of President Lungu to the high profile global responsibility is not only well-deserved, but a source of immense pride and honour to the nation.
Mr Kambwili said the President had shown commitment to the gender agenda by appointing more women to various positions of influence and decision-making.
He said government has reaffirmed its commitment to gender equality by creating more and equal space for women participation in national affairs.
And the 2015 calendar will be marked in red ink for the month of December by most women entrepreneurs, because they will now have a bank to cater for their needs.
Minister of Gender and Child Development Nkandu Luo said the establishment of the first-ever womenâ€™s bank in Zambia is a positive move that should be supported by both men and women.
For the first time in the history of Zambia women will experience the impact of financial inclusion; their financial needs will be catered for irrespective of their status in society.
The bank will allocate 50 percent shares to women, 25 percent will go to government while the other 25 percent will be floated to the private sector and this is where men will fall.
â€œIt will lend out funds to individuals, micro, small and medium enterprises as well as large corporate entities,â€ Ms Wina said.
the bank will be headed by a board of directors comprising 10 board members out of which six positions will be reserved for women.
During the year under review, Zambia commemorated 16 days of gender activism in a different style under the theme End Child Marriages Now – 2015.
Normally during this period (November 25 to December 10) which is observed internationally; it is common practice to march to mark the end of the period; however, this year, the Ministry of Gender decided to hold indabas with traditional leaders in Central, Southern, Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces to interrogate how best to eradicate the vices that disadvantage girls and women.
Turnout was overwhelming and one of the resolutions was for traditional leaders to commit to ending child marriages, which are believed to be the root cause of divorce, sexually, transmitted infections and high maternal and child mortality rates.
Finally, 2015 was the best year for women farmers in various districts who benefited from the Agricultural Development Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) being implemented by the Ministry of Gender.
The programme is aimed at empowering women with agricultural inputs and equipment to promote food security at household and national levels.
More than 2,000 women benefited from the programme and it is hoped that by next year the number of beneficiaries will double.
MWAPE MWENYA, Lusaka