GENDER equality and equity laws and policies are critical to the attainment of equality in leadership and decision making positions in Zambia.
The representation of women in leadership in Zambia is still low.
This is despite the many efforts of various stakeholders to promote gender equality at all levels of leadership.
Presently, Zambia has 127 female councillors out of a total of 1,624; ten female council chairpersons/executive mayors out of 109; 29 female members of parliament out of 164; 11 women Cabinet members out 33; and the Vice-President at the highest level of political decision making.
Zambia National women’s Lobby recently held a sensitisation workshop for stakeholders in Lusaka on the gender equity and equality Act and the amended Constitution.
The Zambia National Women’s Lobby (ZNWL) is a non-partisan, non-profit making and membership driven non-governmental organization committed to the equal representation and participation of women in decision making at all levels. ZNWL was formed in 1991 to respond to the persistent exclusion of women from decision making processes and the increasing gender imbalances in the representation of women in government departments, political parties, the public and private sectors.
The mandate of the ZNWL is to promote the representation and participation of women at all levels of decision making through advocacy, lobbying and capacity building of women in order to enable them influence decisions on development issues.
According to ZNWL board member Sylvia Nyambe, there is need to seriously look at how the country could effectively guarantee women’s inclusion in leadership and decision making positions.
“Having a strong legal framework in place that compels compliance is one way of enhancing gender equality and equity. Zambia is a signatory of many instruments and protocols on gender equality ad equity. Notable among these is the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) and the Southern Africa Development Community protocol on Gender and Development. Closer to home is the amended Zambian Constitution which promotes equal participation in leadership of both men and women and the gender equality and equity Act which is yet to be fully implemented. It is only when enough people are aware of these laws and are complying can we experience real change,” says Nyambe.
Maureen Samulela Tresha, the executive director of Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Educational Trust-Zambia (WLSA) in her presentation on Zambia Constitutional provision on gender equality and women participation in decision making says the Zambian Constitution confirm the equal worth of women and men and their right to freely participate in, determine and build a sustainable political, legal, economic and social order.
“This Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic of Zambia and any other written law, customary law and customary practice that is inconsistent with its provisions is void to the extent of the inconsistency. (2) An act or omission that contravenes this Constitution is illegal. (3) This Constitution shall bind all persons in Zambia, State organs and State institutions,” Samulela says.
“In order to effectively implement the promotion and attainment of mainstreaming of gender equality, the Constitution has established the Gender Equity and Equality Commission. The Gender Equity and Equality Commission functions include, monitoring, investigating, researching, educating, advising and reporting on issues concerning gender equality. The commission is also there to ensure institutions comply with legal requirements and other standards relating to gender equality.”
On the Gender Equity and Equality Act, Samulela says the ministry responsible for gender shall, in liaison with the Commission, ensure the equal participation of both sexes in decision making by formulating and implementing policies, strategies and programmes for-building the capacity of women to participate effectively in decision making through leadership and gender sensitive training and mentoring.
She says the Gender Equity and Equality Act also states that the ministry responsible for gender shall provide support structures for women in decision making positions.
And in her presentation on international instruments and model laws promoting women participation in leadership and decision making, Samulela says the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and came into force in 1981.
She says CEDAW defines discrimination against women and girls and sets out a comprehensive framework for tackling gender inequality.
“Discrimination against women includes any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex that has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying women’s enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. States agree to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women through. States shall take appropriate measures to include legislation to ensure female advancement in all fields but in particular the political, social, economic and cultural fields,” Samulela says.
“States are allowed to adopt temporary special measures to accelerate equality for women until equality of opportunity and treatment have been achieved. Special measures shall also be adopted aimed at protecting maternity. States shall take appropriate measures to eliminate prejudices and discriminatory cultural practices which view one as inferior and other as superior. States shall take appropriate measures that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the roles of men and women in the upbringing of their children. States shall ensure that women have equal rights with men to vote, hold political and public office and participate in civil society. States shall ensure that women are allowed to represent their governments at the international level and to participate in the work of international organisations,”
Samulela on the African Charter says article three states that every individual shall be equal before the law and that every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.
“African Charter on the Women’s Rights article two states that States parties shall combat all forms of discrimination against women through appropriate legislative, institutional and other measures particularly those harmful practices which endanger the health and general well-being of women; integrate a gender perspective in their policy decisions, development plans, programmes and activities and in all other spheres of life; take corrective and positive action in those areas where discrimination against women in law and in fact continues to exist; support the local, national, regional and continental initiatives directed at eradicating all forms of discrimination against women,” she says.
Samulela on SADC protocol on gender and development says the objective is to provide for the empowerment of women, to eliminate discrimination and to achieve gender equality and equity through the development and implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects.
Douglas Chiwama, an officer at WLSA on Gender Equity and Equality Act (Presentation of position paper on the status of Zambia) says the Gender Equity and Equality Act is a 2015 Act of Parliament which is the substantive legislation in Zambia that promotes equality of women, men boys and girls.
Chiwama says the main objectives of the Act are to establish a gender equity and equality commission, to provide a legal framework in which measures and decisions are taken related to gender and to promote gender equality as a cross cutting issue in all areas of life among other things.