Southern Africa: Congratulations Mr Sata, but too few women are in your boat!

Date: October 7, 2011
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Your Excellency, Mr Michael Chilufya Sata, President of the Republic of Zambia, congratulations on being voted to lead Zambia for the next five years. I also thank the outgoing President, Rupiah Banda for handing over power and ensuring a smooth transition that the international community has hailed the women and men of Zambia for.

You have been President for a few days, it is at this juncture that we all face the development of Zambia with a unity of purpose and ensure that we harmonise the various needs and interests of women, men, boys and girls. This is an important moment to think more strategically about the vision of what our beloved country Zambia should be at the end of the next five years.

My letter to you is based on what the Patriotic Front (PF) manifesto for 2011-2016 says about the plight of Zambian women. You rightfully acknowledge that the “gender policy has been a complete failure as women have continued to be marginalised or excluded from the mainstream decision making organs.” I remember that you were the one during the former Frederick Chiluba’s Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) government that responded to the women of Zambia and tabled the Gender Policy for adoption. Congratulations for that. I believe that your commitment to attaining gender equality is still embedded in you and that you will revive the gender agenda in government and all its processes.

Among the achievements mentioned in your manifesto is that the PF adopted the greatest number of women as parliamentary candidates in 2006, 21% of whom made it to parliament. You promised that in 2011 your party intended to double this percentage.

However, this did not happen. There are only two women who made it into your cabinet making the representation of women in cabinet 10.5%. Women in parliament only constitute 11.3% of the total parliamentarians. There are just a few women on the boat, the emblem that your party uses. Women and men in Zambia need a balanced equation to feel that the journey will be safe, efficient and effective.

You note in the manifesto that the MMD government failed to achieve the “prescribed threshold of women representation in decision making as prescribed in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995); the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development (1997); and, the Millennium Declaration and Development Goals (2000).”

Allow me Mr President to bring it to your attention that the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development that your manifesto refers to has since been replaced by the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. The Protocol has also come into force as two-thirds of SADC countries have ratified the Instrument. You promised to domesticate international protocols that relate to gender and development; enhance educational opportunities for the girl child; work hand in hand with non-governmental organisations to improve women’s participation in national development; eradicate all forms of discrimination against women; and introduce legislation that allows these promises to be achieved. I request that you streamline all development efforts in line with the provisions of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

Mr President, the Zambian Government which you now lead cannot continue to function as an island in a region and era when other members are making significant strides in gender and development. We have signed global and regional conventions or protocols that advance gender equality, women’s socio-economic, political and legal rights. Your government should show its uniqueness by ratifying and domesticating the policies that pertain to gender equality.

While we can say that Zambians have spoken, the nerve centre of political parties, the selection and adoption procedures and the general lack of political will by the MMD ruling party to take a leading role to change gender inequalities has been the problem. Unless, the ruling party, PF in this case, takes strategic measures to change this situation we will continue to witness the lopsided development Zambians continue to experience. Women and men need to be active participants in the development of Zambia and your government should ensure that there are equal opportunities for all.

Going forward Your Excellency, ensure that gender is mainstreamed in the key line ministries. We cannot afford to have gender in just but a section of the PF manifesto. Gender should be mainstreamed in all areas that your party deems important to the lives of the women and men of Zambia. This will assist the development process to be informed by women and men and that the same women and men benefit equally.

We failed to meet the 50% representation of women in decision-making target. I recommend that 5050 be incorporated in the national Constitution to compel all state and non-state actors to adhere to the principles of gender equality. The Electoral Law should also be reviewed to empower the Electoral Commission of Zambia to enforce the agreed upon laws. For example, once it is agreed to have the 5050 target mainstreamed in political party constitutions, policies and manifestos, no political party should be registered without meeting that ratio. Zambia does not have to reinvent the wheel and can learn from other countries within the region such as Rwanda and South Africa who have made it in terms of empowering women.

With due respect, we look forward to a fruitful five years and challenge you to ensure that women’s lives change for the better. Continue rowing the boat, but remember to stop and put some women on board before you get too far.

Margaret Machila is a gender activist in Zambia. This open letter is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.



0 thoughts on “Southern Africa: Congratulations Mr Sata, but too few women are in your boat!”

Chuundu Malele says:

Thank you Margaret you have opened the way for the tremendous lobbying effort that will be required to keep the issue of ‘gender’ high on the administrations agenda

Valerie Chanda Chibuye says:

Very good observations. More women need to be adpoted as candidates by political parties and including the 5050 requirement in the electoral law will be the best way of ensuring this.

Peter Hamajata says:

The first thing i did after president announced his cabinet,was to look at the positions of women in Sata’s cabinet,I was shocked to see only two women in his cabinet and yet this is the party which talked of increasing the numberof women in decision making processes,eg in parliament.What has gone wrong in peoples minds,the women will still continue to be marginilized in Zambia. PF do something for the women to be valued at national levels

Moses Zulu says:

Thanks you all for your comments,I dont know when our leaders will prove their promises. Women also should learn to support each other, after all there are the majority that votes. PF kindly prove to the women that you are committed and you can do it

Vincent Siakwale says:

Women in the current political environment may not sail. what is needed is a quota system to start with just like the way the land policy is states. some constituencies should be gazzetted for women to compete among themselves.30% or 45 seats in parliament, then the 70% could be open for competition by both men and women.

we are still very far and such revelations are a good pointer to the workload by the judicial system and the electoral laws in Zambia. Even if another party came up, the situation on competition in the open political environment will show similar trends.

Vincent Siakwale(Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at Caritas Monze. Southern Province Zambia.

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