Analysis: MUBANGA LUMPA
EACH year on March 8, Zambia joins the rest of the globe in commemorating International Women’s Day. It is also an opportunity for many governments, women’s rights groups, civil society and other stakeholders to reflect on progress made, to renew their commitment towards women’s rights and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. It is also a day when women are recognised for their achievements regardless of any form of discrimination, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.
International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of the labour movements at the turn of the 20th century in North America and across Europe. The United Nations Charter, which was signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. Since then, the UN has helped to create a historic legacy of internationally agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women globally. Thus over the years, the UN and its agencies have promoted the participation of women as equal partners with men in achieving sustainable development, peace, security, and full respect for human rights.
As such, International Women’s Day has continued to assume a new global dimension for women in both the developed and developing countries. The growing international women’s movements, which have been strengthened by the UN’s women’s conferences which include the 1975 Mexico City 1st Women’s Conference, the 1979 adoption of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the 1980 Copenhagen 2nd Women’s Conference, the 1985 Nairobi 3rd Women’s Conference and the 1995 Beijing 4th Women’s Conference which adopted instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Vienna Declaration on Human Rights, The Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies and the Beijing Platform of Action, among other strategies. Therefore, these programmes and strategies have helped to make the commemoration of International Women’s Day a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas across the different social and economic spheres.
However, despite such global efforts to promote the empowerment of women in the sustainable development agenda in various parts of the world, numerous reports in the various media still highlight how women and girls continue to be disadvantaged in many social, economic and political circles. In Zambia, for instance, incidents of gender-based violence have continued to dominate many sections of our media which continue to negatively impact many aspects of women’s lives, including their health, safety and that of their children, injury, unwanted pregnancy, miscarriage, HIV and AIDS, permanent disabilities, depression, fear, anxiety, etc.
However, it is gratifying to note that over the years, our country has been working towards the implementation of both legal and policy framework to attain its vision of full gender, equality and the equal and full participation of women and men at all levels of national development. For instance, the 2014 National Gender Policy provides for equal opportunities for women and men to actively participate and contribute to their fullest ability and equitably benefit from national development. Other gender-related legislation in Zambia include the country’s constitution under the Bill of Rights, which provides for the non-discrimination of women’s rights, the Anti-Gender- Based Violence Act of 2011, the revised Penal Code (2005), and the Gender Equity and Equality Rights Bill of 2015. In 2012, Government also established the Ministry of Gender as part of its institutional mechanism to address gender-related issues in the country.
Further, Zambia is also a signatory to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development and also the African Union (AU) Protocol to The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on The Rights of Women in Africa. These treaties all provide for the empowerment of women, to eliminate discrimination and to achieve gender equality and equity through the development and implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies, and programmes in all member countries.
It is thus evident that although women in our country and worldwide substantially contribute to economic, social and political development, they have nonetheless not fully benefited from the economic growth and development and have continued to lag behind in the major decision-making spheres of the various structures of our society. This has continued to affect women socially and economically in terms of access to many social and economic opportunities. This calls for more efforts to ensure the attainment of gender equality in the development process. In our country, this can be achieved by working towards speedy domestication of the international gender treaties and protocols that enhance gender equity and equality, strengthening domestic legislation that protects the rights of women and girls, the continuous review of gender policy, discouraging the social and cultural practices that promote gender stereotypes, among others, in order to achieve a gender balance in our society.
The author is a social commentator and blogger.
Analysis: MUBANGA LUMPA