AD164: Despite disparities, Zambians see country on right track toward gender equity

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Dispatches
2017
164
Andrew D. Turnbull and Rhoda Chiwele

Gender equity is a vital issue in Zambia, the focus of many civil-society organisations as well as government efforts to empower women and eliminate gender disparities (Daily Mail, 2015). The government’s 2014 National Gender Policy and 2015 Gender Equity and Equality Act aim to end discrimination against women, including in access to productive resources, educational opportunities, and quality health-care services (Ministry of Gender and Child Development, 2014; National Assembly of Zambia, 2015).

The United Nations has recognized President Edgar Lungu as a “promoter” of its “He for She” campaign for women’s empowerment (Lusaka Times, 2015), and a number of women have been appointed to key decision-making positions in government departments and ministries, most notably the country’s first female vice president, Inonge Wina, and Chief Justice Irene Mambilima. 

Still, only 29 of the 166 members (17%) of the National Assembly of Zambia are women (National Assembly, 2017), below the global average (23%) and far short of the African Union’s call for 50% women at all levels of political decision-making positions (UN Women, 2016; Bosha, 2014). A European Commission (2017) analysis points to multiple and complex causes for the underrepresentation of women in decision-making processes, ranging from traditional gender stereotypes and a lack of support for balancing care and work responsibilities to prevalent political and corporate cultures. The National Gender Policy (2014) notes that traditional gender roles often require girls and women to carry a disproportionate share of the burden at the household and community levels.

Afrobarometer survey findings suggest that most Zambians endorse equal rights and opportunities for women in economic and political spheres, and increasing numbers of citizens approve of the government’s efforts to move toward gender equity. Nonetheless, half of Zambians think it is better for a family if a woman, rather than a man, has the main responsibility for taking care of the home and children.