Zambia: Gender equality and human rights

Date: December 9, 2013
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Lusaka, 10 December: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” International human rights law lays down obligations for governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.

Both the Millennium Development Goal Three (MDG3) and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development directly promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, by calling on member states to commit to and take measures to ensure women and girls have access to their basic rights.

The UN holds non-discrimination as a central principle, which is also central to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Despite the existence of human rights and gender equality instruments, women in Southern Africa and across the globe continue to suffer various forms of violence perpetrated by society and states. Women remain under-represented in all areas of decision-making and not a day passes without a media report about a woman being either battered or raped.

At the recent launch of the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer held in Lusaka and hosted by the Southern Africa SADC Gender Protocol Alliance and Gender Links, Christine Kalamina from Zambian Ministry of Gender and Child Development, Zambia is working hard to end gender violence and accelerate efforts to attain gender equality before the 2015 deadline.

Engwase Mwale, Executive Director of the Non-Governmental Organisations Co-ordinating Committee (NGOCC), said civil society remains resolved to see provisions of the SADC Gender Protocol implemented.

Regional representative for Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), Matrine Chulu
emphasises the need to align the MDGs and SADC gender protocol to ensure human rights and gender equality is realised after 2015. Chulu stresses the need to strengthen existing gender equality mechanisms and to implement a stand-alone gender equality goal.

“Implementation is a big challenge for the whole of the SADC region. For example, in Zambia, we have not changed the electoral law to have a 50/50 of female and male as political candidates,” Chulu notes.

The post-2015 MDG agenda may need strengthening and should place priority on gender equality. However, what it is more important is that states and citizens show commitment and political will to achieve gender equality. We all need to realise that before someone is a woman or man, a gender or a sex, they are first human who deserve equal rights and equal protection.

Glory Mushinge is a freelance journalist in Zambia. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service, special series on 16 Days of Activism, providing fresh views on everyday news.


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