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THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS’ COORDINATING COUNCIL (NGOCC) EXPECTATIONS OF THE NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER AUGUST 11TH 2016 ELECTION

13934779_1056266347820874_4818505007645545685_nTOMMOROW, THURSDAY AUGUST 11 2016, ZAMBIA ONCE AGAIN GOES TO THE POLLS TO ELECT THE COUNTRY’S LEADERSHIP TO OVERSEE THE COUNTRY’S AFFAIRS FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS. THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS’ COORDINATING COUNCIL (NGOCC), AS AN UMBRELLA ORGANISATION OF MEMBER NGOS AND CBOS ACTIVE IN ADDRESSING GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT, REMAINS COMMITTED TO ADVANCING THE AGENDA FOR WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT, AND PARTICIPATION IN ELECTIONS IS ONE SUCH AVENUE. WE TAKE THIS ROLE OF COORDINATING AND STRENGTHENING OUR 104 MEMBER ORGANISATIONS VERY PASSIONATELY IN ORDER TO ENHANCE THEIR EFFECTIVENESS IN EMPOWERING WOMEN.

IN MANY RESPECTS, THIS YEAR’S ELECTION IS UNIQUE AS THE POLL FOR THE ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT AND RUNNING MATE, MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT, COUNCILORS AND EXECUTIVE MAYORS/COUNCIL CHAIRPERSONS WILL BE HELD ALONGSIDE THE NATIONAL REFERENDUM. APART FROM VOTING FOR OUR REPRESENTATIVES, ZAMBIANS WILL ALSO BE DECIDING AS TO WHETHER THEY WANT THE BILL OF RIGHTS TO BE EXPANDED AS PROPOSED BY THE TECHNICAL COMMITTEE. THE ELECTION IS BEING HELD AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF THE AMENDED CONSTITUTION WHICH AMONG OTHERS HAS MADE PROVISIONS FOR A REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENT AS A RUNNING MATE TO THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, THE PROVISION FOR A THRESHOLD OF 50% PLUS 1 VOTE FOR A WINNING PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AND THE DIRECT ELECTION OF MAYORS AND COUNCIL CHAIRPERSONS.

IN THE LAST TEN YEARS, ZAMBIA HAS BEEN IN AN ELECTIONEERING MOOD GIVEN THE MANY ELECTIONS, OVER THE PERIOD THAT HAVE BEEN OCCASIONED BY UNFORTUNATE CIRCUMSTANCES. FROM 2006, ZAMBIA HAS HAD FOUR (4) PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. IT IS OUR HOPE AND PRAYER THEREFORE THAT THE 2016 ELECTIONS WILL SOMEWHAT BE A BREAK FROM THE PAST, SO THAT WHOEVER IS ELECTED AS PRESIDENT CAN FOCUS ON NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT. ZAMBIA IS FACED WITH A NUMBER OF DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES. POVERTY HAS CONTINUED HOVERING AROUND THE 60% MARK OVER THE YEARS AND UNFORTUNATELY CARRIES THE FEMALE FACE.

DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE NUMBER OF WOMEN IS HIGHER THAN MEN (CONSTITUTING 50.7% OF THE POPULATION), WOMEN HAVE, OVER THE YEARS, CONTINUED TO FACE CHALLENGES IN FULLY PARTICIPATING IN VARIOUS LOCAL AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROCESSES AND PROGRAMS. IT IS EVIDENT THAT SOCIETY STILL HAS A BIAS TOWARDS THE MALE GENDER WHICH CONTINUES TO DISPROPORTIONATELY ACCESS VARIOUS SERVICES AND BENEFITS. EFFORTS TO CHANGE THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN ZAMBIA HAVE CONTINUED TO BE FRUSTRATED BY A PATRIARCHAL CULTURE EXACERBATED BY A NUMBER OF LEGAL IMPEDIMENTS, INADEQUATE POLITICAL WILL, INADEQUATE RESOURCES, HIGH POVERTY LEVELS, HIGH ILLITERACY LEVELS, HIV AND AIDS AND HIGH MATERNAL MORTALITY, AMONG OTHERS. THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT THEREFORE SEES TOMORROW’S ELECTION, JUST LIKE THE PREVIOUS ELECTIONS, AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE NEXT NATIONAL LEADERSHIP TO COMMIT TO ADDRESSING THE ABOVE IN ORDER TO CHANGE THE SITUATION OF ZAMBIAN WOMEN.

THIS PRESS CONFERENCE HAS THEREFORE BEEN CALLED TO GIVE SOME OF THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE ZAMBIAN WOMEN FROM THE GOVERNMENT THAT WILL BE VOTED FOR TOMORROW. IT IS HOWEVER WORTHY NOTING THAT OVER THE YEARS A NUMBER OF STRIDES HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED FOR THE WELL-BEING OF WOMEN IN ZAMBIA SUCH AS WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT FUND, APPOINTMENT OF SOME WOMEN IN VARIOUS KEY DECISION MAKING POSITIONS, SOCIAL CASH TRANSFERS TO VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES, LEGISLATION TO PROMOTE GENDER EQUITY AND EQUALITY AS WELL AS LAW ON ENDING GENDER BASED VIOLENCE. HOWEVER, NGOCC REMAINS CONCERNED WITH THE CONSTITUTIONAL MAKING PROCESS, ESPECIALLY THE SIMULTANEOUS HOLDING OF THE NATIONAL REFERENDUM AND THE GENERAL ELECTIONS. WHILE WE ARE DESIROUS TO HAVE AN EXPANDED BILL OF RIGHTS, WE NOTE THAT, UNFORTUNATELY, THE CURRENT REFERENDUM PROCESS HAS BEEN HIGHLY POLITICIZED AND IS NOT LIKELY TO YIELD THE DESIRED RESULTS.

BELOW ARE SOME OF OUR EXPECTATIONS IN OUR CONTINUED PURSUIT FOR “A SOCIETY WHERE WOMEN FULLY PARTICIPATE AND BENEFIT FROM SOCIAL, CULTURAL, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE COUNTRY:
1. THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT MUST EXERCISE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AND NOMINATE MORE WOMEN AS MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT (AS PER ARTICLE 69 (1) OF THE AMENDED CONSTITUTION OF 2016), IN ORDER TO BRIDGE THE GAP THAT WILL HAVE BEEN CREATED AS A RESULT OF FEWER WOMEN HAVING BEEN ELECTED TO PARLIAMENT. OVERALL THERE WAS AN AVERAGE OF 16% WOMEN ADOPTED AT PARLIAMENTARY LEVEL ACROSS THE MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES PARTICIPATING IN THIS YEAR’S ELECTIONS. WE NOTE THAT PRIOR TO THE DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT IN READINESS FOR THIS YEAR’S ELECTIONS, ZAMBIA HAD 13% WOMEN AS MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT, 6% AS COUNCILORS AND 24% AS CABINET MINISTERS. THE ADOPTION RATE FOR THE AUGUST 11TH 2016 GENERAL ELECTIONS IS AT (ONE) 1 WOMAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OUT OF 9 CANDIDATES, 106 WOMEN OUT OF A TOTAL OF 651 CANDIDATES, REPRESENTING 16 % OF THOSE ADOPTED AT PARLIAMENTARY LEVEL, 40 WOMEN OUT OF 331 OF THOSE ADOPTED AS MAYOR/COUNCIL CHAIRPERSONS REPRESENTING 12%; AND 415 WOMEN OUT OF 4566 CANDIDATES ADOPTED AS WARD COUNCILORS REPRESENTING 9% WOMEN. THIS IS A GROSS RETROGRESSION FROM THE PREVIOUS STATISTICS WHICH WERE STILL FAR BELOW THE SADC PROTOCOL PROVISION OF 50/50 GENDER PARITY IN DECISION MAKING POSITIONS BY 2015.
2. IN LINE WITH THE 2016 AMENDED CONSTITUTION, IT IS NGOCC’S EXPECTATION THAT THE APPOINTING AUTHORITY TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY – FOR THE POSITION OF SPEAKER AND DEPUTY AS WELL AS OTHER DECISION MAKING POSITIONS SHOULD TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE GENDER PARITY PRINCIPLE. THIS PRINCIPLE SHOULD BE APPLIED EVEN AT CABINET AND VARIOUS OTHER PUBLIC SERVICE APPOINTMENTS INCLUDING THE FOREIGN MISSIONS, AS STIPULATED IN ARTICLE 259 (1) (B) OF THE AMENDED CONSTITUTION OF 2016.
3. BEYOND THE 2016 AMENDED CONSTITUTION, NGOCC NOTES THE VARIOUS INCONSISTENCIES AND GAPS THAT HAVE BEEN BROUGHT ABOUT BY THE NEW CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER. IT IS OUR VIEW THAT THE NEW GOVERNMENT SHOULD IMMEDIATELY BEGIN COMPREHENSIVE LEGISLATIVE REFORMS IN ORDER TO HARMONIZE VARIOUS POLICIES AND THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK, THIS MUST BE PRIORITIZED WITHIN THE FIRST YEAR OF ASSERTION OF THE AMENDED CONSTITUTION. THIS WILL ASSURE THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND GUARANTEED ACCESS TO JUSTICE BY ALL CITIZENS AS WELL AS EFFECTIVE EXERCISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS BY VARIOUS INSTITUTIONS OF GOVERNANCE.
4. NGOCC FURTHER EXPECTS THE NEW GOVERNMENT TO PUT UP A MORE HOLISTIC PROGRAM TO IMPROVE THE WELFARE OF THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN. WHILE ZAMBIA’S ECONOMY IS SAID TO BE GROWING, WHAT WE NOTE IS THAT THE POVERTY LEVELS AND STANDARD OF LIVING FOR MOST PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN, HAS REALLY GONE DOWN GIVEN THE LEVELS OF HUNGER IN MOST HOUSEHOLDS. SOME OF THE CONTRIBUTORY FACTORS IN THIS REGARD ARE THE INCIDENCES OF CHILD MARRIAGES AND DISCRIMINATORY PROVISION OF FACTORS OF PRODUCTION TO WOMEN WHICH WILL REQUIRE SPECIFIC FOCUS BY OUR LAW AND POLICY MAKERS TO ENSURE HOLISTIC DEVELOPMENT.
5. NGOCC ALSO LOOKS FORWARD TO THE NEXT GOVERNMENT TO ENSURE FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 2016 GENDER EQUITY AND EQUALITY ACT WITH THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE GENDER COMMISSION THAT IS GOING TO ENSURE THE MAINSTREAMING OF GENDER IN ALL SECTORS OF THE ECONOMY. THIS WILL ENTAIL THE DOMESTICATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF VARIOUS PROVISIONS OF REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL INSTRUMENTS ON GENDER, E.G. SADC GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT PROTOCOL, AFRICAN UNION PROTOCOL ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS, AND UNITED NATIONS CONVENTIONAL ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (CEDAW), TO NAME A FEW.
6. RECENT RESEARCH INDICATES THAT ZAMBIA HAS ONE OF THE HIGHEST RATES OF GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (GBV) IN THE REGION. ACCORDING TO THE ZAMBIA DEMOGRAPHIC AND HEALTH SURVEY, 43% OF WOMEN AGED 15-49 HAVE EXPERIENCED VIOLENCE AT LEAST ONCE SINCE THE AGE OF 15. CASES OF GBV HAVE CONTINUED TO BE ON THE INCREASE. ACCORDING TO THE ZAMBIA POLICE VICTIM SUPPORT UNIT, 4,998 CASES OF GBV WERE REPORTED COUNTRYWIDE IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2016 COMPARED TO 4,615 CASES REPORTED IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2015. THIS TRANSLATES IN AN INCREASE OF 383 CASES GIVING A PERCENTAGE OF 7.7%. A TOTAL NUMBER OF 703 CASES OF CHILD DEFILEMENT WERE REPORTED COUNTRYWIDE REPRESENTING 14% OUT OF THE 4,998 CASES REPORTED IN 2016. LUSAKA REPORTED THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF DEFILEMENT CASES WITH 365 REPRESENTING 52%. FROM THE FIGURES ABOVE, IT IS CLEAR THAT CASES OF GBV ARE ON THE UPSWING ESPECIALLY THAT MANY GBV CASES ARE NOT REPORTED TO THE POLICE. DESPITE PASSING A PROGRESSIVE LAW LIKE THE ANTI-GBV ACT OF 2011 AND THE MANY OTHER EFFORTS THAT ARE BEING PUT IN PLACE SUCH AS STIFFER PENALTIES AND THE FAST TRACK COURT SYSTEM, WE NOTE THAT INCIDENCES AND THE GRAVITY OF GBV IS ESCALATING.

7. NGOCC THEREFORE, EXPECTS THE NEXT GOVERNMENT TO PUT UP A SPIRITED FIGHT AGAINST GBV WITH REGARD TO FULLY IMPLEMENTING THE ANTI GBV ACT THROUGH PRACTICAL STRATEGIES TO MITIGATE THE VICE SUCH AS CONSTRUCTION OF SHELTERS, SETTING UP OF MORE ONE-STOP CENTRES AND A FUND FOR SURVIVORS OF GBV. IN THIS REGARD WE LOOK FORWARD TO A NATIONAL BUDGETING PROCESS THAT WILL EARMARK ADEQUATE RESOURCES TO THIS CAUSE AS WELL AS INVEST MORE TIME AND ENERGIES IN PREVENTIVE MECHANISMS SUCH AS SENSITIZATION AND AWARENESS PROGRAMS AT ALL LEVELS. WE ALSO EXPECT THE NEW GOVERNMENT TO SCALE UP THE ESTABLISHMENT OF FAST TRACK COURTS IN OTHER PROVINCES. WE ALSO EXPECT THE NEW GOVERNMENT TO TACKLE GBV THAT IS POLITICALLY INCLINED TO ENSURE PEACEFUL ELECTIONS IN FUTURE.

8. OVERALL, NGOCC HAS OBSERVED THAT CASCADING OF NATIONAL RESOURCES TO THE PEOPLE REMAINS A CHALLENGE. WE ARE EXPECTING THE NEXT GOVERNMENT TO PROGRESSIVELY WORK ON INCREASING BUDGETARY ALLOCATION TO THE SOCIAL SECTORS, WITH PRIORITY ON GIRL CHILD EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT CREATION, HEALTH AND AGRICULTURE AMONG OTHERS.

9. IN A MORE CONCRETE MANNER NGOCC FURTHER EXPECTS:

I. THE NEW GOVERNMENT TO INVEST IN MATERNAL HEALTH SERVICES AND ENSURE THAT SKILLED AND GENDER BALANCED HUMAN RESOURCES ARE ENGAGED WITH AVAILABILITY OF PROPER FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT AT ALL HEALTH CENTRES. FURTHERMORE, INTRODUCTION OF YOUTH FRIENDLY SERVICES IN ALL HEALTH CENTRES SHOULD BE PRIORITIZED. THIS WOULD PUT THE COUNTRY ON THE THRESHOLD OF REALIZING THE ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS TO ENHANCE PEOPLE’S LIVELIHOODS IN LINE WITH CITIZENS’ ASPIRATIONS.

II. ON EDUCATION THE NEW GOVERNMENT SHOULD CONSIDER CONSTRUCTION OF MORE BOARDING FACILITIES IN THE FORMAL SCHOOLS, REGULATE PRIVATE BOARDING FACILITIES, ACTUALIZE THE RE-ENTRY POLICY FOR PREGNANT GIRL PUPILS AFTER DELIVERY, PROVIDING FREE EDUCATION UP TO GRADE 12 AND PROPER MECHANISMS FOR BURSARY/LOAN FACILITIES FOR TERTIARY EDUCATION.
III. WITH REGARD TO THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR, MORE WOMEN SHOULD BE ACCORDED STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITIES TO ACCESS PRODUCTIVE LAND. IN ADDITION, IT IS OUR EXPECTATION THAT THE REVIEW OF THE FARMER INPUT SUPPORT PROGRAMME WILL TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE UNIQUE NEEDS OF WOMEN. ON THE OTHER HAND, WE WOULD ALSO LIKE TO SEE MORE WOMEN TARGETED TO BENEFIT FROM THE SOCIAL CASH TRANSFER PROGRAMME IN THE PROVINCES WHERE IT IS BEING IMPLEMENTED ON ACCOUNT THAT WOMEN ARE THE POOR OF THE POOREST 60 % POOR OF WHICH 80% ARE WOMEN. THE FOREGOING ARE BUT SOME OF THE KEY ASPECTS IN SUSTAINING ZAMBIA’S QUEST FOR GENDER EQUITY AND EQUALITY. INDEED WE ANTICIPATE A LEADERSHIP THAT WILL AIM AT BUILDING UPON SOME OF THE PROGRESSIVE STEPS TAKEN BY THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT ON ENSURING THAT MORE WOMEN ARE PROMOTED INTO DECISION MAKING POSITIONS. WE HAVE GOOD EXAMPLES OF INCREASED WOMEN IN THE JUDICIARY (45% WOMEN), THE POLICE SERVICE (35.7% WOMEN), AND VARIOUS OTHER PUBLIC SERVICE INSTITUTIONS WHERE WOMEN HAVE BEEN APPOINTED. (GENDER AUDIT OF THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS, ZNWL, 2014).

THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THE FUTURE OF ZAMBIA, LIKE IN MANY OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD, LIES IN THE REALIZATION OF GENDER EQUITY AND EQUALITY. DEVELOPMENT MUST BE DRIVEN BY WOMEN, MEN AND THE YOUTH TO ENSURE EQUITABLE PARTICIPATION AND BENEFIT BY ALL. AS NGOCC, WE STAND RESOLUTE TO EMBRACE MULTI-LEVEL LAYERED COMMITMENT AND DETERMINATION TO ENSURE THAT THE WOMEN OF ZAMBIA EMERGE AND TAKE UP LEADERSHIP AT VARIOUS LEVELS. WE SHALL SUPPORT ANY GOVERNMENT THAT WILL STAND UP FOR THE WOMEN OF ZAMBIA AND MORE ESPECIALLY IN ADVANCING WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN AND GIRLS AT ALL LEVELS.

Issued:
/for NGOCC

Sara Longwe
CHAIRPERSON

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