(By Chambwa Moonga and Masuzyo Chakwe)
STOP ukushipisha (holding on), President Edgar Lungu told Zambian women yesterday.
“Do not suffer in silence! Shipikisha no more. Stop ukushipikisha (struggling). Challenge the status quo and enjoy your rights in full as a woman,” President Lungu told the women who gathered at Lusaka Showgrounds for commemoration of International Women Day.
President Lungu saluted FDD president Edith Nawakwi, gender activist Sarah Longwe and the late Lucy Banda Sichone for helping move the Zambian gender agenda forward.
President Lungu said the government, through the Ministry of Justice, recognised these gallant women during the commemoration of the Human Rights Day in 2018.
“Today, as women, you can proudly walk into any institution without fear of being subjected to any form of discrimination based on your gender. This is so because of the interventions that these women pioneers of gender equality made,” he said “So to the women, the tone was set by these great women: therefore, always think equal, build smart and innovate for change in fighting gender-based discrimination. Do not suffer in silence. Challenge the status quo and enjoy your rights in full.”
President Lungu said there was need for revolutionary thinking and make extraordinary progress in tackling gender inequalities.
He said though progress had been made at policy and legislative levels, gender inequalities and violation of women’s and girls’ rights had continued to be pervasive in communities, and across all sectors.
President Lungu said this was despite all efforts put in over the decades.
He paid tribute to the women who early in the 19th century decided to fight gender-based oppression and discrimination and win the right to vote.
“This was significant because it was a wake-up call to the world about the need to respect women’s rights. Let me also commend these women because it was their struggle and courage for equal treatment with men that led to the declaration of the 8th of March as the international women’s day,” President Lungu said.
He said since then, the International Women’s day had evolved and embraced women of different backgrounds.
“The day has now become one of appreciation, respect and love towards women, as well as recognition for their tremendous contribution to national development,” he said.
President Lungu said this year’s theme called for all countries including Zambia, to adopt a transformative agenda, integrated approaches and employment of new solutions in tackling gender inequalities in all spheres of development.
“Therefore, there is need for revolutionary thinking. It is time to make extraordinary progress in tackling gender inequalities,” he said.
However, President Lungu said there had been progress in a number of areas.
“We have achieved parity at primary school level of education. We have significantly increased women’s participation in decision making at strategic levels including in politics. There are more women’s economic empowerment programmes. Women’s access to health has improved. More women are accessing social protection services, and we are creating more gender-friendly infrastructure,” he said.
President Lungu said noted that more needed to be done.
He said women were still overburdened by poverty and continued to face challenges in accessing justice, social and economic opportunities.
President Lungu said the challenges women faced were even more in accessing infrastructure, especially for persons with disabilities.
“The gender inequalities and discrimination continue to be worsened by deep-rooted cultural and traditional practices which promote male dominance and the subordination of women and girls. It is clear that though we are progressing well in the implementation of gender equality and empowerment programmes in our country, we need to enhance these efforts, if we are to realise the targets as set out in the sustainable development goals and planet 50:50 by 2030,” he said.
President Lungu said the global gender gap report for 2018 had noted a likely emergence of new gender gaps in the area of advanced technologies, such as in artificial intelligence-related skills.
He said the report further acknowledges that artificial intelligence was an area where human skills were becoming increasingly important in complementing innovation and technology.
President Lungu said the government would thus continue to promote and support the girl-child education with special focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“This is being done in order to take advantage of the women and girls’ ideas and influence in the design and implementation of innovations which will shape the future of our country…The good news is that Zambia is already aggressively going digital at every level of government and this will result in new opportunities,” he said. “We should not be shy to exploit new areas, but instead be forward looking, as we collectively reflect on our journey together. We must begin to raise awareness among girls and boys early in their life and in the school curriculum, on issues of gender equality. This action will have an inter-generational impact on reducing gender inequalities.”
President Lungu congratulated the women and men of Zambia for remaining resilient and believing in the just cause for gender equality.
“Be assured that one day, gender equality will be a reality in all spheres of life in Zambia. Let us continue to live and appreciate the fact that working together as women and men of this great nation, we will be able to transform our country and attain development,” said President Lungu.