DESPITE the adoption of gender policies aimed at ensuring fair participation of men and women in the development process, most of the guidelines worldwide still remain gender-blind.
For example, gender is not one of the considerations in setting targets for various programmes like access to land and credit by governments.
The truth is that gender equity cannot be achieved in the absence of proactive policies, and such policies have to be mainstreamed into every sector and programme.
The various impediments that prevent women from participating fully and equitably in development have to be removed.
It is important to note that the Zambian government has been proactive in working towards the attainment of gender parity.
This is why Zambia adopted the first National Gender Policy (NGP) in 2000 to enable both women and men to participate in the development process at all levels, to ensure sustainable development.
The adoption of the NGP was a major yardstick for measuring Government’s commitment to gender mainstreaming.
Through the policy, Government committed itself to changing many stereotypes that impinge on women’s participation in national development by taking appropriate legal and administrative measures to eliminate discrimination.
It’s now about 18 years since the NGP was adopted, and impediments such as lack of access to land, credit, unequal opportunities for employment, wage disparities and marginalisation in decision-making processes are still visible.
Therefore, a potential avenue worth trying out is the implementation of quotas in all organisations.
A quota system is where all positions are shared equally among males and females of that particular organisation or group.
For example, if the chairperson is female, then her vice should be male, and if there are four positions, then two should be given to females and the other two to men.
The quota system has been successfully implemented in Belgium, where the battle against gender inequality is fought using the instrument of quotas in politics, business and beyond.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development website, over the last 15 years, Belgium has introduced legislation governing increasingly ambitious quotas.
The pioneering Tobback-Smet Act led to an increase in the proportion of female Members of Parliament from 16 percent previously to 25 percent in 1999. Under this Act, political parties were required to fill at least a third of their electoral lists with members of the under-represented gender group, in this case women.
All organisations and groups must ensure that the difference between the numbers of candidates from each gender on every list submitted should not exceed one. Furthermore, the first two candidates on the list should be of the opposite sex.
It is important to note that the quota system can play a pivotal role in making women’s talent and experience visible.
All impediments should be redressed if gender parity is to be realised.
Policies that champion gender parity should also be mainstreamed into every sector and programme.
And there can be no complete poverty reduction agenda without mainstreaming gender into it. Unless this is done, Zambia’s poverty reduction agenda will be undermined and compromised.
The need to employ new techniques that will bring desired results in the fight for gender equity and equality should be embraced by all goal-oriented organisations.
According to the United Nations under secretary-general and executive director for Women Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, it will take another 50 years to achieve gender equality in the political sphere at the current rate of change. Patiently waiting for that to happen is not an option. Tough measures are needed, quotas for women in parliamentary meetings are the most important.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail correspondent.