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Key findings
  • In Zambia, equal proportions of women and men have post-secondary education (15%), but women are significantly less likely than men to have secondary schooling (37% vs. 56%).
  • Women trail men in control over key assets such as a mobile phone, bank account, computer, and motor vehicle. o But the data indicate no major gender gap when it comes to control over how household money is spent.
  • Large majorities say women should have the same rights as men to get paying jobs (72%) and to own and inherit land (81%). o Most citizens say women today do enjoy equal rights when it comes to jobs (70%) and land ownership (74%).
  • Three-quarters (76%) of Zambians say women should have the same chance as men of being elected to public office. o Eight in 10 citizens (81%) think a woman who runs for public office will gain standing in the community, although 43% think it’s likely she will be criticised or harassed by others in the community, and 33% say she will probably face problems with her family.
  • More than seven in 10 respondents (72%) say the Zambian government is doing a “fairly good” or “very good” job of promoting equal rights and opportunities for women. o At the same time, about two-thirds (65%) say the government should do more to promote gender equality.
  • Citizens cite gender-based violence as the most important women’s-rights issue that the government and society must address, followed by unequal access to education, too few women in influential positions in government, and unequal opportunities or pay in the workplace.

Despite constitutional imperatives and government policies aimed at achieving gender equality, Zambian women continue to trail men in a variety of spheres. Women hold only 15% of parliamentary seats and 16% of ministerial positions. While they make up 86% of the informal labour force, only 13% of firms have female top managers (World Economic Forum, 2023; Tembo, 2022). 

The Constitution attaches importance to valuing women and men equally and to their rights to shape the country’s political, legal, economic, and social direction (Government of Zambia, 2016). The National Gender Policy was revised in 2014 to address gender imbalances, strengthening calls for equal opportunities for women and men to participate in and contribute to national development, and the Gender Equity and Equality Act of 2015 reinforces the legal framework to eradicate all forms of discrimination against women and girls (Ministry of Gender and Child Development, 2015, 2019). 

Despite this policy framework, the country’s ranking in the Global Gender Gap Index declined in 2023, slipping from 62nd to 85th place out of 146 countries (World Economic Forum, 2023). 

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 (2021/2023) questionnaire to explore Africans’ experiences and perceptions of gender equality in control over assets, hiring, land ownership, and political leadership. (For findings on gender-based violence, see Chibwili, 2023). 

Survey findings show that Zambian women continue to trail men in educational attainment and ownership of key assets such as mobile phones and bank accounts. Majorities endorse equal rights for women in employment, land ownership, and political leadership. But significant minorities consider it likely that female candidates for public office might suffer criticism, harassment, or family problems. 

Most Zambians approve of the government’s performance in promoting equal rights and opportunities for women, though they also say greater efforts are needed.

Edward Chibwili

Edward Chibwili is the national investigator for Zambia.