BARBARA HAMOONGA, Kabwe
WOMEN are normally not valued in most patriarchal societies. The situation is even worse when they do not bring commercial value to the table – when women bring income to the family, they are valued in a broader sense.
Research shows that women are the major contributors to agricultural production in Africa. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in its report of 2014, 80 percent of agricultural production in Africa comes from small-scale farmers, who are mostly rural women.
In addition, women comprise the largest percentage of the workforce in the agricultural sector, but do not have access and control over all land and productive resources.
It also states that about 70 percent of the food consumed in Zambia is grown by women, but they only own 19.2 percent of land in the country. This statistic makes it clear that women are efficient in producing food but are generally marginalised through discriminatory cultural attitudes and practices.
One study has shown that more than a third of Zambian widows lose access to family land when their husbands die.Â This and other gender-insensitive cultural practices have resulted in Zambia not being as food secure as it ought to be, and significantly obstructing womenâ€™s access to financial assets, including savings and credit services.
Ever heard of the Standard Chartered Bank Womenâ€™s Build? Well, this is an annual event meant to highlight issues around womenâ€™s rights; the important role women play in the development of the country; the role of shelter in increasing equality of opportunity and outcomes for women. The Womenâ€™s Build also highlights the need for Zambiaâ€™s private sector to help the government reduce the housing deficit, particularly among women, the poor and vulnerable children.
The 2016 Womenâ€™s Build was held on April 27th in Kabweâ€™s Makululu township, under the theme â€˜Gender is my agenda: Make it happenâ€™. During the event, Standard Chartered Bank Zambia, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, handed over a house to Kaluba Mukenisha of Makululu, in their endeavour to reduce â€˜housing povertyâ€™ among women, particularly those looking after orphans and vulnerable children.
Gracing the event, First Lady Esther Lungu said the Womenâ€™s Build is an important annual event meant to bring to the fore the issues around womenâ€™s property rights.
In her opening remarks, Mrs Lungu stated that this yearâ€™s theme was timely, noting that gender will always be an agenda for as long as women are treated as second-class citizens.
â€œThe President recently announced that the Patriotic Front will try to adopt 40 percent women parliamentary candidates, and other political parties have followed suit. Standard Chartered Bank has continued to finance the building of womenâ€™s houses and advocacy of womenâ€™s right and non-governmental organisations such as Habitat for Humanity Zambia lobby for womenâ€™s rights,â€ she said.
She added that gender parity will only be achieved if both men and women are given equal opportunities and responsibility over their own lives and persons under their care.
â€œThis cannot happen unless women have decent houses and that is why I support Habitat for Humanity Zambia in its quest to provide decent shelter. Just being role models is not enough; the Womenâ€™s Build event reminds us that we, too, in our small way, can help other women attain joy, freedom from poverty and provide a conducive environment in which they can thrive,â€ she stated.
The First Lady implored both men and women to make gender their agenda in order to attain gender parity.
She also awarded Mukenisha, the house beneficiary, K5,000 to buy household assets.
And Standard Chartered Bank Zambia CEO Andrew Okai said Standard Chartered Bank Zambia has partnered with Habitat for Humanity globally to build homes for disadvantaged people in the communities.
He said the bank strongly believes in making a positive, lasting impact in the communities where it operates. He described the current living conditions of less privileged people in society as being a crisis.
â€œThis year Standard Chartered Bank celebrates 110 years of operating in Zambia. Through the years, we have partnered with our clients on business, economic development, girlsâ€™ education, health, the environment and sport,â€ the Standard Chartered Bank CEO said.
And Habitat for Humanity Zambia (HFHZ) board chairperson, Douglas Katengo stated that a house gives a sense of belonging, security, pride and hygiene. It provides an environment in which children can study and pursue an education.
In addition, it is also the first step in asset building as a family can own it as an asset that can be leveraged for other investments in the future.Â Most importantly, a home bestows dignity and allows family members to hold their heads high.
â€œUnfortunately, as we build homes every day, still more people are thrust into homelessness and insecurity. It has been alluded that poverty has a womanâ€™s face because out of the nearly 1.3 billion people living in poverty, 70 percent are women. Let us decline poverty being associated with a womanâ€™s face and let us make a contribution to the eradication of poverty by giving opportunity and hope of a different future to women, orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC),â€ Mr Katengo said.
He congratulated the First Lady on forming the Esther Lungu Foundation Trust in her resolve to transform the lives of many across the country.
There are more than 1.6 million OVCs in Zambia and over the past year, HFHZ has secured decent shelter for 1,620 of them through the Pamwesu programme, which targets vulnerable groups in society.
The programme provides fully-subsidised three-room houses to vulnerable families who have little-to-no income and have OVCs under their care, the aged and impoverished female-headed households.
All the houses Habitat Zambia constructs under this programme, are 100 percent funded by foundations, institutions, international organisations and governments, local corporates agencies, individuals, schools and churches.
Meanwhile, Ms Mukenisha thanked the First Lady, Standard Chartered bank and HFHZ for empowering her family with a house and some money.
She remarked that since 2001, she, together with her husband and three children, has been living in a four-room mud house, whose iron sheets are held by big stones to prevent the roof from being blown away.
She said the house leaks in the rainy season and has since developed cracks.
â€œTo earn a living, I sell scones and my husband does piecework like maintaining peopleâ€™s lawn and he makes about K100 per month. The money is mainly used to buy food as it is not enough to meet other household needs,â€ she narrated.
BARBARA HAMOONGA, Kabwe