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Bernadette Deka-Zulu (PhD Researcher – Public Enterprise)

On November 25, 2022, Zambia joined the global community in commemorating the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This marked the beginning of the 2022 campaign of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV). In the midst of these efforts, Zambia faced a significant change as the Gender Ministry was relegated to a division, coinciding with a disturbing increase in GBV statistics. As I participated on a global platform and panel discussing the impact of cyberbullying, I delved into the complex interplay between GBV, cybersecurity, and the participation of women in politics.


The decision to relegate the Gender Ministry to a division in Zambia sparked apprehensions within the community, especially in light of the escalating statistics on Gender-Based Violence (GBV). As the ministry, once a dedicated entity focused on addressing gender-related issues, saw its prominence reduced, the impact on the fight against GBV began to surface.

The repercussions of this restructuring became starkly evident as women encountered heightened levels of threats and harassment. Without the dedicated focus of the Gender Ministry, the mechanisms for addressing and preventing GBV faced challenges. The shift in dynamics was not merely administrative; it permeated society, influencing the perception and treatment of gender-related issues.

In the absence of a centralized ministry, the response to GBV became fragmented, with various divisions handling aspects of the issue. This decentralization, coupled with a lack of a cohesive strategy, hindered the effectiveness of combating Gender-Based Violence. The once-unified efforts now required a more concerted approach to address the surge in incidents.

The intersection of gender issues with broader societal changes further complicates the landscape. Economic shifts, cultural transformations, and evolving social norms all played a role in shaping the dynamics of gender relations. The implications of these changes reached far beyond the immediate concerns of the relegated Gender Ministry, necessitating a comprehensive examination of the multifaceted challenges faced by women in Zambia.

The increased threats and harassment against women were not isolated incidents but reflected systemic issues that required systemic solutions. This included addressing root causes such as entrenched gender stereotypes, economic disparities, and a lack of education and awareness. Without a dedicated ministry spearheading these efforts, the battle against GBV became more challenging, requiring collaborative action from various stakeholders.

The ripple effects of the decision to relegate the Gender Ministry extended beyond the realm of policy and administration. They permeated communities, workplaces, and homes, affecting the lives of women across Zambia. The need for a coordinated and focused approach to tackle Gender-Based Violence became more urgent than ever.

In response to the surge in GBV incidents, civil society organizations, activists, and concerned citizens rallied to fill the void left by the restructured ministry. Grassroots movements emerged, advocating for the rights and safety of women. However, the absence of a centralized authority dedicated to gender issues created gaps in coordination, making it challenging to implement comprehensive and cohesive strategies.

In essence, the decision to relegate the Gender Ministry to a division had far-reaching consequences, intensifying the challenges posed by Gender-Based Violence. It underscored the importance of not only recognizing the significance of gender-focused entities but also ensuring their continued strength and efficacy in the face of evolving societal dynamics.


Amidst these shifts, the Women in Energy Conference became a crucial platform for dialogue. However, it’s essential to correct the reference to “Women in Energy” as it appears that this might have been a misunderstanding. Nevertheless, the conference served as a backdrop to discuss the multifaceted challenges women in Zambia were facing, including the alarming rise in cyberbullying.


In the digital age, online violence emerged as a formidable barrier to women’s active involvement in politics. The economic consequences of online gender-based violence cannot be overlooked, as threats and harassment often lead to self-censorship, limiting public engagement. Beyond politics, damaged online reputations become stumbling blocks, restricting career opportunities, and discouraging women from pursuing leadership roles.


The economic fallout is pervasive, extending beyond immediate political participation. Online attacks result in isolation, limiting access to political networks and resources crucial for a successful political career. Moreover, the psychological toll of persistent online harassment affects women’s mental health, diverting their focus from essential political responsibilities.


To address these economic repercussions, a multifaceted approach is imperative. Strengthening legal frameworks, promoting digital literacy, and collaborating with online platforms to ensure safer environments are foundational measures. Community engagement, mentorship programs, and responsible media reporting play pivotal roles in countering online attacks and supporting women in politics.


Incentives and disincentives through policy mechanisms can play a pivotal role in discouraging online harassment. Strict legal consequences, insurance coverage against reputational damage, and financial support for victims serve as incentives. Conversely, fines for platforms, corporate social responsibility requirements, and financial penalties for perpetrators act as powerful disincentives.


To ensure a comprehensive and sustainable approach, economic considerations must be woven into policy frameworks combating cyberspace violence. This involves allocating resources for robust cybersecurity measures, fostering public-private partnerships, funding research and development, and conducting economic impact assessments. Penalties for non-compliance, international cooperation, and user awareness campaigns are integral components of a holistic strategy.


In conclusion, the complex intersectionality of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), cybersecurity, and cyberbullying in Zambia underscores the urgent need for proactive measures and collaborative efforts. The decision to relegate the Gender Ministry to a division, combined with the alarming surge in GBV statistics, has created a critical juncture that demands a comprehensive and strategic response. Beyond the immediate ramifications on women’s safety and well-being, the multifaceted challenges presented by this confluence necessitate a holistic approach that addresses both the social and economic dimensions.

The intertwining nature of GBV with cybersecurity and cyberbullying emphasizes that these issues are not isolated but interconnected components of a broader societal landscape. Efforts to combat online gender-based violence must be accompanied by a nuanced understanding of the root causes of GBV, acknowledging the societal and cultural factors that contribute to these challenges. Moreover, a concerted focus on creating a safer and more inclusive online environment for women in politics is not just a moral imperative but also an economic necessity.

Recognizing the economic ramifications of online gender-based violence, especially in the political arena, is crucial for the progress and well-being of Zambia. The impediments posed by cyberbullying and online harassment have far-reaching consequences, affecting not only individual women but also the overall participation of women in politics. Therefore, addressing these challenges requires not only legal safeguards, digital literacy programs, and collaborations with online platforms but also a broader societal shift towards inclusivity, respect, and gender equality. By weaving together, a tapestry of comprehensive policies, collaborative initiatives, and cultural shifts, Zambia can pave the way for a more equitable and secure future, where women can actively and fearlessly participate in the political landscape.


This article is supported with the WAN IFRA Women In News (WIN) Social Impact Reporting Initiative (SIRI) gender equality, diversity and inclusion (GEDI) Information in this article does not reflect the views of WAN IFRA Women In News.


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