BREAKING BARRIERS: Overcoming Challenges To Women’s Participation In Politics, Leadership & Businesses In Zambia
Bernadette Deka-Zulu (PhD Researcher-Public Enterprise)
As we are headed to concluding this special month of March when women are celebrated world over, we look at the progress of women’s participation in politics, business, and socio-economic development.
In Zambia, efforts have been made to increase women’s participation in these sectors, but challenges still exist. It is crucial to examine the progress made so far and the challenges that hinder women’s full and equal participation in these areas. This article explores the current status of women’s participation in politics, business, and socio-economic development in Zambia, the legal framework that supports women’s development, Zambia’s participation in the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the challenges that women in politics and careers face, and propose solutions that can be implemented to address these challenges. By examining these issues, we can create awareness and foster a more inclusive and equitable society that benefits all Zambians.
Current Status Of Women Participation In Politics, Business, And Socio-Economic Development In Zambia
In Zambia, progress has been made in increasing women’s participation in business, and socio-economic development. However, there is still a long way to go towards achieving gender equality and inclusion women’s in the area of politics.
In terms of women’s representation in politics, women hold 26 out of the 166 seats in the National Assembly, representing 15.8% of the total number of seats. However, this falls short of the 50/50 gender parity goal set by the government in 2015. Women also hold 4 out of 25 ministerial positions, which is a backward movement as compared to the previous years.
In the business sector, women’s participation is still limited. According to the Zambia National Women’s Lobby, women own only 15% of registered businesses, and only 5% of women have access to credit. Women also face challenges accessing training and networking opportunities, which limit their capacity to grow their businesses.
In terms of socio-economic development, women still face significant challenges. Women have higher rates of unemployment and poverty than men, and are often concentrated in low-paying and informal jobs. Gender-based violence also remains a significant concern, with 45% of women having experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
While progress has been made in increasing women’s participation in politics, business, and socio-economic development, more needs to be done. To achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment in Zambia, efforts must be made to address the systemic barriers that limit women’s access to opportunities and resources.
Legal Framework To Support Women’s Development
Zambia has a legal framework that supports women’s development and aims to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Constitution of Zambia, the Gender Equity and Equality Act, and the Domestic Violence Act are among the legal instruments that provide a foundation for women’s rights and gender equality.
The Gender Equity and Equality Act of 2015, in particular, is a landmark piece of legislation that seeks to eliminate discrimination against women and promote their full participation in all areas of development. The Act provides for the establishment of a Gender and Equity Commission, which is responsible for promoting gender equality and addressing gender-based discrimination.
However, despite the existence of a legal framework, implementation and enforcement have been a challenge in Zambia. There is a need for more effective implementation of laws that protect women’s rights and promote their participation in politics, business, and socio-economic development.
In addition, cultural attitudes and beliefs often limit the effectiveness of legal frameworks in promoting women’s development. Traditional norms and practices such as child marriage and gender-based violence continue to be prevalent in some parts of Zambia, hindering women’s full and equal participation in society.
Overall, with the current legal framework and especially the Act of Parliament of 2015 on gender equity and equality in Zambia; the question is; why are we still recording middling/mediocre numbers of women’s participation in the Zambian leadership and political space? Is the current legal framework enough or does it need revision to ensure certain decisions are legally binding?
What happened to the aim by Government of reaching 50-50 gender participation parity?
UNCSW 2023: Theme, Highlights and Zambia’s 2023 Report to the CSW
The 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was in session from the 6th of March and adjourned last Friday the 17th. The theme for the session was “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls“.
At the CSW 2023, key issues related to women’s participation in politics, business, and socio-economic development were discussed. These include the gender gap in political representation, women’s access to finance and resources for business development, and the impact of gender-based violence on women’s participation in public life.
Zambia’s participation in the CSW is crucial in promoting women’s participation in politics, business, and socio-economic development. Zambia has been an active participant in previous CSW sessions, with representatives from the government, civil society organizations, and women’s groups attending the sessions.
Overall, the CSW 2023 presented an opportunity for Zambia to showcase its commitment to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Zambia’s participation in the CSW is crucial in advancing policies and strategies that promote women’s participation in politics, leadership and business development.
In this light, would it be fair to guess that our report to the CSW 67th session of the UN was retrogressive and regressive in view of the progress that was made in the previous years?
Challenges Women Face
Women in politics and careers in Zambia face a range of challenges that hinder their participation in public life and their advancement in their careers. These challenges include gender stereotypes and discrimination, limited access to education and training opportunities, and a lack of support networks and mentorship programs.
In politics, women face challenges such as limited access to political party structures and nomination processes, as well as gender-based violence and heightened harassment and vile atmosphere aimed at crippling and discouraging participation on highest levels, as women are forced to choose human dignity and preservation of their families over their right to freely pursue their careers and contribute effectively to community and national development
Women are often subjected to sexist and misogynistic attacks, which can deter them from seeking political office or speaking out on issues of public concern.
In the business world, women face challenges such as limited access to finance and credit, discriminatory laws and policies, and gender-based discrimination and bias. These challenges can limit women’s ability to start and grow their businesses, as well as hinder their advancement in leadership positions within organizations.
The impact of these challenges is significant, as it hinders the full and effective participation of women in politics, business, and socio-economic development. The under-representation of women in decision-making positions can lead to policies and programs that do not address the needs and priorities of women and girls. Additionally, women’s limited access to education and training opportunities can hinder their ability to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to compete in the job market.
Addressing these challenges is crucial in promoting women’s participation in politics, business, and socio-economic development. By creating an enabling environment that supports women’s advancement in their careers and provides equal opportunities for women and men, we can promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in Zambia.
What Can Be Done?
To address the challenges that women face in politics and careers, there is a need for concerted efforts from various stakeholders, including the government, civil society organizations, and the private sector. Here are some proposed solutions:
- Enact laws and policies that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. The government can work towards implementing policies that promote equal opportunities for women and men, such as providing access to education, training, and finance. For instance, it is good to note that government in June 2021 thoroughly revised the National land policy that saw the introduction of joint titling between husband and wife; enabling women to also have collateral in case they are to borrow for a business. The Policy also revised land tenure issues that favor women. However, there is need for civic education and sensitization to spread the word across all societal spaces
- Increase women’s participation in decision-making positions. Political parties can implement affirmative action measures that encourage the nomination of women for political office. Private sector organizations can also prioritize the recruitment and promotion of women in leadership positions.
- Create support networks and mentorship programs. Women need support networks and mentorship programs to help them navigate the challenges they face in politics and careers. Civil society organizations can play a vital role in establishing such networks and programs.
- Promote gender-responsive budgeting. The government can allocate resources towards programs that address the needs and priorities of women and girls. This can include investments in education, health care, and social protection programs.
- Address gender-based violence and harassment. It is crucial to address gender-based violence and harassment in politics and the workplace to create a safe and enabling environment for women. This can be achieved through the implementation of laws and policies that protect women from such forms of violence and harassment.
Promoting women’s participation in politics, business, and socio-economic development requires a multi-stakeholder approach. The government, civil society organizations, and the private sector can all play a role in implementing solutions that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. By creating an enabling environment that supports women’s advancement in their careers, we can promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in Zambia.
In conclusion, the zeal and interest of young women shown in filling up political, business, and socio-economic spaces in Zambia is remarkable.
Therefore, concerted efforts from various stakeholders are needed to ensure that legal frameworks should be revised, fully reenforced and legally binding for 50/50. We call upon the government, the not so vigorous civil society organizations, and the private sector to work together to implement solutions that promote women’s participation in politics, business, and socio-economic development in Zambia. By doing so, we can create a more equal and prosperous society for all.
“I am a result of the Beijing Platform of Action (1995)- A manifestation of the sweat and blood of our FOREMOTHERS who advocated, supported and stood strong for my right to education; to leadership and overall participation for my country and my space in the globe. Therefore, we should not be subjected to the benevolence of one leader in deciding our fate on the leadership table.” Bernadette Deka-Zulu.