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NGOCC insists on holding of referendum for Bill of Rights

NGOCC says President Edgar Lungu’s failure to give a clear direction in terms of the lacunas in the 2016 amended Constitution is disappointing.

Non-Government Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) executive director Engwase Mwale in a statement yesterday stated that the Constitution remained a critical area of concern for the country’s democratic dispensation.

“With regard to the constitutional process and the national referendum, we are disappointed that the President did not give a clear direction in terms of the lacunas in the 2016 amended Constitution. We are disappointed that the President did not address himself to the holding of the National Referendum for the inclusion of the expanded Bill of Rights in the Constitution. As we have stated, the socio-economic rights are critical for the well-being of women and children and we therefore urge the government to ensure that they prioritise the holding of the National Referendum,”

Mwale stated.

“We have noted that the President’s address was anchored on the five pillars as provided in the Seventh (7th) National Development Plan (SNDP). It was gratifying and refreshing that the Head of State was providing some sex disaggregated data. It is NGOCC’s expectation that more capacities will be built to move towards highlighting gender disaggregated date for better targeting of development interventions. Over the years, successive governments have talked about the diversification of the economy from reliance on copper to agriculture. The President has also reiterated the urgent need to diversify the economy.”

She stated that there was need for government to immediately move to measures that would accelerate the diversification programme.

Mwale stated that the need for the government to allocate adequate resources to the agriculture sector was critical for diversification to be realised, adding that the resources must be channelled to rural areas.

She stated that it was a fact that most peasant farmers were women and that directing resources to rural areas would produce a win-win situation in the fight against poverty.

“It is important for the country to address itself to deliberate measures and policies that will be targeted at addressing rural poverty, which bears the face of a woman. As an organisation, we therefore welcome the government’s ambitious programme to develop the livestock sector, specifically the growing of goats. The measures to address the inequalities are also welcome. We, however, expect that there will be deliberate policies put in place to narrow these inequalities,”

Mwale stated.

“On education, NGOCC welcomes the keeping girls in school initiative that targets to reach out to 14,000 girls from vulnerable families. However, we note that this initiative is in the 2017 National Budget and no clear criteria has been prescribed in the Presidential address. We also note that in the 2017 national budget, the government also proposed the distribution of sanitary towels to schoolgirls in peri-urban and rural areas. However, this hasn’t been actualised and hence our appeal for the government to address this issue. We call upon the Minister of Finance to address himself to this important aspect in the 2018 budget formulation.”

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