MWAPE MWENYA, Johannesburg
ISN’T it amazing to watch someone do something for the first time successfully? I guess everyone agrees with me that it is. Well, big up to Zambian women who recently attended the African Women in Dialogue (AWID) conference which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Over 25 women from all walks of life represented Zambia at the just-ended conference which attracted more than 1,000 delegates from 15 southern African countries.
Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) executive director Maureen Tresha says the selection of women was inclusive to cater even for those without any educational background or political affiliation.
“The selected women included housewives, academicians, journalists, entrepreneurs and politicians. The aim was to allow them to appreciate successes and challenges women are facing in achieving gender equality,” she said.
Mrs Tresha is proud that Zambia is among countries in the world making strides in achieving gender equality as stipulated by various regional and international treaties that promote equality for all.
Currently, the percentage of women parliamentarians stands at 18 percent. One major success story for the country has been the appointment of Inonge Wina as the first female Vice-President.
Zambia is also on the map for its efforts in championing the #HeforShe project that encourages men to be a part of a solidarity campaign for the advancement of gender equality initiated by the United Nations. Its goal is to achieve equality by encouraging men and women to be agents of change and take action against gender stereotyping.
And Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) chairperson Sara Longwe, who was representing Gender Links at a panel discussion, urged women not to give up the fight towards gender equality.
Mrs Longwe says AWID is a good initiative that should be emulated by Zambia as it is a platform that promotes linkages between women from all of walks of life with divergent ideas on how to bridge the gender inequality gap.
It is against this background that the AWID conference was called on to identify current and evolving systemic barriers, including practices and norms which work against the implementation of the women`s development agenda.
The AWID programme has been derived from the South Africa Women in Dialogue (SAWID), founded by former South African first lady Zanele Mbeki, through the Zanele Mbeki Foundation Trust. It is an inclusive platform of dialogue established in 2003, when more than 1,000 women from all over South Africa gathered to celebrate the achievement of women.
Mrs Mbeki said when women get together to create space to collectively plan, it is easier to find solutions for real and lasting change that positively impacts on lives.
The AWID conference had various interesting programmes, among them ‘Breaking Barriers – Connecting with Self and Others’.
The purpose of the session was to give participants opportunities to meet and connect with other participants on a personal basis. The session aimed to strengthen connections of diverse women from across the continent.
Participants appreciated the topic as its main objective was for the women to break the silence over issues that could be affecting them in society.
A sombre mood characterised the group discussions as most women opened up on many things that have been troubling them, especially issues of sexual and gender-based violence.
Another interesting topic of discussion was ‘Driving Inclusivity: Empowering Women to Participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)’. It arises from the recognition that most African women are not familiar with the concept of this revolution.
While the first, second and third industrial revolutions gave women many high-paying industrial jobs, the fourth industrial revolution poses a possibility of creating employment challenges for women as it involves science.
Governments have since been advised to adopt strategies around the 4IR to deal with how people should prepare for the future.
And speaking through a tele briefing, United Nations (UN) Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said gender equality is attainable in any government if women stand firm in pursuing their rights as equal partners in decision-making.
Dr Ngcuka said it’s time women realised their potential and avoid being monopolised by men in high offices.
“Africa is doing fine in the appointment of women in cabinet offices, but we can still do better, we need to strive to put good women in cabinet because we know that there are some bad men out there and if we are represented by bad men, we will not go anywhere,” Dr Ngcuka said.
MWAPE MWENYA, Johannesburg