In the Zambian parliament only 14% of representatives are women. Early marriage, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and cultural and social factors that deter girls and women from actively participating in the political life of their communities need to be addressed to see further progress towards this MDG target. School and community sensitization to change attitudes and behaviours, together with investments in women’s education, equal pay for equal work as well as increased access to financing, entrepreneurship skills and asset ownership by women will go a long way towards this end. (source: UNDP in Zambia)
In her role as Gender Justice Focus Person with the Zambia Episcopal Conference Emma Yates is helping to address this imbalance through her assistance in building skills and strengthening local staff capacity in raising awareness and leadership programs. Her role will support the work of Zambian women who want to participate equally in Zambian society. Emma writes.
Over the last few months Catherine and I have been almost fully occupied completing the Women in Governance (WIG) programme 2013 Annual Report (I’d be happy to email it to anyone who’d like to know more), and working closely with the auditor to finalise our Audit. I found that was a very stressful process at times. We are now planning for a 4 day “Facilitation Skills and Adult Learning Principles” training programme in early May, which will involve 15 new and existing facilitators (all volunteers who are often members of their diocese gender committees), coming in from around the country for training so that they are better equipped to facilitate gender and leadership workshops in their own communities. I am continuing to indirectly mentor Catherine. I’ll be encouraging her to do more facilitating in the programme herself after this training, and also asking her to draft our quarterly reports this year.
The highlight of the last few months for me was my trip to Sitaka (a small village in Western Zambia) on the invitation of the parish priest to join in their International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations. The WIG programme has been working in Sitaka for two years, mainly implementing adult literacy classes. I got the sense that understanding and acceptance of the concept of gender equality is still a long way off for many community members – men and women – it is just so different to the prevailing cultural norms. One of the main things that holds girls and women back is that girls are usually married and/or having their first child by 13 or 14 years. There is a very strong norm of men going drinking and women doing most of the work. But there are small changes taking place. The parish priest is very dynamic and caring, and he and others have done a lot to educate people about domestic violence particularly. And the IWD programme included singing and dances by groups of women and girls, and a number of sketches by the women, though which they were clearly ‘airing out their grievances’ about the ways they are often treated by men.
Last weekend the boys and I went to collect Steve from Chikuni hospital and were given a very informative guided tour of the Chikuni museum. Sr. Vivian and the very personable guide had fun dressing me up in traditional Tonga headwear and beads!