The Eighth Day

Written By: The Lowdown - Mar• 31•13

2013 03 small coverI have been looking up some elements of Chinese culture that fascinate me since theirs is the oldest uninterrupted world tradition and found that “The number eight is viewed as such an auspicious number that any number with several eights is considered very lucky.”

On March 8 Zambia officially recognises International Women’s Day – the 102nd anniversary, and superstition aside, the question in my mind was what measure of luck has influenced the status of women. Some aspects could include our known character as ‘a peaceful nation’ coupled with the general attitude of Zambian women themselves who tend to get on with business when and if their men-folk won’t   – but, there is no doubt that we also owe a lot to the development of institutional support that has protected and upheld the rights of ordinary Zambian women.

Currently, the Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Committee (NGOCC) boasts over more than 100 affiliate organisations. With the reintroduction of the multi-party system in 1991, women’s groups found themselves by far the majority of civil society organisations. The National Women’s Lobby Group (NWLG) and others such as Women for Change (WfC) and Women in Law in Southern Africa (WILSA) focused on the issues of imbalance in’ justice, redress and respect’ for women’s human rights. However, they were successful to large part because of the existence of much older organisations, with country-wide networks established before Independence like the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) which was formed in 1957

The primary teaching profession in Zambia, and nursing, actively encouraged female recruits. Deliberate policies to encourage girl-child education have been worked on by the Ministry of Education, donor agencies and non-governmental actors. In higher institutions of learning there have been instances where female students have been reimbursed tuition fees as they pass from one level to another. The more liberal churches have seen women rise to senior positions in the clergy.

Historically a combination of quota, and positive discrimination has meant that we have significant female representation in our society. Zambian women are visible in institutions as varied as the media, art, sport, police, courts, banking systems, agriculture, engineering and the medical profession.

But there is no need to be complacent. The idea of 50:50 representation is still a long way off for the country. Women parliamentarians still fall far short of the 30 percent SADC protocol and number varyingly between 11 to 15% of the 150 member house over the past five years. By the time girls reach the tertiary institutions of learning they are routinely outnumbered 4 to 1 by their male counterparts. And the full enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals leave much to be desired as evidenced by more accurate reporting on gender-based violence.

So as we celebrate our gains with women and men of good will across the world, a thought to keep in mind is perhaps w[h]e are not quite at liberty yet to rest on the seventh day and in all we are actually down on our luck!

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