SWEDISH Embassy head of development cooperation Karin Sverken says Zambia has the highest levels of gender inequalities despite efforts to attain equality.
And NGOCC board chairperson Sara Longwe says poverty in Zambia has continued bearing a face of a woman.
During the signing of a K40 million grant from Sweden in Lusaka this morning, Sverken, who is also deputy head of mission, called for addressing the structural issues that continued to undermine the contribution of women as well as the negative social and cultural norms that were widely held and practiced.
“While much has been done towards attaining gender equality in Zambia, the country continues to lag behind and has one of the highest levels of gender and other inequalities. The lives of many women and girls are characterised by poor access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, poor education, limited participation in decision making, lack of access to productive resources, vulnerability to the effects of climate change, gender based violence, early marriages, among other issues,” said Sverken.
And Longwe said NGOCC was focused on advocating for a society where women were empowered and fully participate in social, cultural, economic and political development of the country.
She said women in Zambia had remained discriminated against from both participating and benefiting from the various development processes.
Longwe said there was need to promote women empowerment for gender equity and equality through coordinated advocacy of capacity development of member organisations and linkages with government, local and international partners.
She thanked the Swedish Embassy for the SEK40, 000,000 grant.
“Of the one billion people that are poor worldwide, women make up the majority and are more excluded than men in many aspects. This has been attributed to, among other factors, the fact that women face greater burdens of unpaid work, have fewer assets and productive resources than men, are more exposed to gender-based violence and are more likely to be forced into early marriage. Economically, women around the world still face huge, persistent gender gaps,” she said.
She assured Sweden and other cooperating partners that every coin given to NGOCC would be well accounted for.
Longwe said in the next five-years NGOCC would focus on critical issues that affect women.
“Our focus in the next five-years will be on women’s economic empowerment, sexual reproductive health and rights of women and girls, governance and women’s leadership as well as climate change mitigation and resilience,” she said. “NGOCC is fully aware that it does not exist in isolation and hence embraces the larger civil society body and its operating environment. In developing our partnerships and coalitions, we are driven by our value system and conviction for a better Zambia for women and girls. We will, therefore, continue to work with other like-minded organisations to ensure that we narrow the gender gap in the country. It is however, almost impossible to narrow these gaps without resources.”
Longwe said the Swedish grant was crucial for Zambian women in both urban and rural areas.
“As you may already be aware, poverty in Zambia bears the face of a woman. We are grateful therefore for this support we are signing today as it will go a long way in addressing the sufferings of women and girls and indeed promote greater gender equality,” he said.
NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale said the organisation was committed to championing its mandate within the principles of transparency and accountability.
She said the 2013 to 2017 Strategic Plan faced a number of constraints due to the scaling down of support by donors.
“The last few years have been challenging to civil society in Zambia because of the dwindling donor landscape. As you may be aware, after the reclassification of Zambia as a middle income country, most donors scaled down their support to NGOs in Zambia [and] rechanneled their resources to other countries,” said Mwale. “The total budget for the 2018-2022 strategic plan is K109,000,000. I must state here that throughout the strategic plan implementation, the legal and policy framework will inform NGOCC and advocacy interventions. HIV and AIDS, disability and Gender Based Violence will be mainstreamed as crosscutting issues.”