Analysis: VALERIE CHIYOMBWE
IN JANUARY 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as the main international mechanism for guiding development in all United Nations member states until 2030.
These global goals concern a wide range of targets, including poverty eradication, environmental sustainability, and economic growth among others. National governments, however, cannot single-handedly effectively deal with these ambitious goals.
It is for this reason that the collective and individual efforts of other stakeholders such as the private sector, the general public and civil society organisations such as Zambian Women With Skills (ZWWS) at local, national and international levels are extremely necessary in this quest.
As an organisation, we consider ourselves as co-partners of development in Government’s efforts to steer the economic wheels of our country in an effort to try and not leave any one behind.
We believe our individual efforts play a critical role in not just providing alternative solutions to Government’s efforts, but also lending a helping hand in the realisation of the global goals that we, as a country, have pledged to collectively help bring to fruition.
According to the United Nations Development Group (UNDG, 2014), civil society organisations like ours have been tasked to play a critical role in fostering advocacy and mediation in policy development, identifying crucial development priorities, proposing practical solutions and policy opportunities as well as criticising impractical or problematic policies.
“Leaving no-one behind” is an underlying principle of the SDG, a principle that has ably been incorporated in our country’s 2018 budget as was delivered in Parliament by Finance minister Felix Mutati on September 29, 2017.
The aim of this principle is to ensure that development throughout the world has positive impacts on the poorest and most marginalised members of any given society.
As an organisation, our mission is to help improve the lives of Zambian women by enhancing their leadership and entrepreneurial capacities. This we do through skills identification and training, mentorship, entrepreneurship activities, networking, promotion and cooperation.
As a way of localising the principle of not leaving anyone behind, we provide a service to three kinds of women, all representing different types of women hailing from across the different economic spectrums of our society.
As an organisation, therefore, we are committed to working towards achieving the following SDGS: SDG# 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all. SDG#5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. SDG# 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
As a way of effectively helping to play our role in the actualisation of the SDGs as a CSO, our work has been streamlined in the following 2 critical ways:
1. ZWWS as a platform for entrepreneurial capacity building: Through our learn a skill & learners hub programmes, our role is to help give an opportunity to those women that cannot afford to pay for a structured course to learn the basics in the English language as well as to acquire a skill which they can translate into a sustainable stream of income. These four-to-eight-weeks short courses are offered to these women for free in a bid to have a formative effect on the way they think, act and respond to social and economic demands that society puts on them. Through these two programmes, we have not only created a crucial opportunity, but a safe space and platform for engaging with these local women in order to promote genuine dialogues, build community and develop strong relationships with them and among themselves.
2. As an organisation, we have identified integrated improvements and interventions through these two specific programmes as well as an entrepreneurship manual that we have created to use with the women we serve – interventions that promise to make a significant difference for vulnerable people. We also continue to reiterate the value of locally tailored solutions in realising local and global development goals at every chance we get, especially through local media – both print and visual/audio.
3. ZWWS as a service delivery agent: While acknowledging that Government holds primary responsibility for delivering services in our country, as a CSO, we play a key role in supplementing Government’s efforts, particularly in situations where Government may lack the capacity and resources to provide essential services for our people.
We realised, therefore, that we are better placed to identify more creative and innovative alternatives to foster holistic development for our target demographic. Using the human rights approach as a lens of analysis to carry out our activities, we identified a critical gap in the lives of the women we serve. We realised that most of the women did not have adequate legal information about a good number of topics relevant to their well-being. This information we realised was a critical part of their quest to become economically emancipated as well as function socially well within their different communities. Given this background, we introduced the legal aid clinic both for affiliate members within the organisation and occasional sessions for women outside the organisation. These clinics are themed legal sessions which are currently being conducted by Mutumu Mwape and myself, who are also both currently serving on the organisation’s board. This particular service is tailor-made to help with the dissemination of information across a variety of pertinent topics/issues for the benefit of the target women. We understand the universal need for every person to have access to the right information in order to make more informed decisions, as a result, the clinic is our best bet to help meet this global goal.
Having become aware of, and linking the objectives of the SDGs, ZWWS has been able to effectively take a cross-cutting approach to identifying creative solutions on the ground – solutions that Government may miss.
The author is a member of the Zambian Women With Skills.