Women’s rights in Zambia: involving all levels of society
Lusaka – On this 8 March, International Women’s Day, Avocats Sans Frontières is focusing on the project it has been running in Zambia for the past year in partnership with the organisation Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). The aim of making women the authors of their own emancipation is central to the activities of both organisations. The first results are very positive.
Zambians are faced with many obstacles as they try to exercise their rights. Women in particular are the true victims of this situation, whilst they also suffer cultural prejudices regarding their position in society.
Thanks to the ASF and YWCA project, they can benefit from information and awareness-raising sessions, as well as from specific assistance provided by lawyers or counsels in cases of gender-based violence. These initiatives help them become more aware of their rights and to respond when these are abused. Capacity-building activities are implemented with all the relevant parties. ASF believes that change is achieved by involving all levels of society: not just women and actors in the legal system, but also men, traditional community leaders, police services that deal with gender-related violence, public institutions, and so on.
“My meeting with the beneficiaries of the project was extremely encouraging,” reports Cathy Lecrenier, ASF Country Director in Zambia, who has returned from a recent visit to the country’s northern province. “The communities involved attested to the positive impact of the project on awareness of women’s rights and access to justice.”
The figures confirm these positive impressions: at the end of one year, over 1,500 people had received awareness-raising information and more than 700 received legal assistance. “One of the keys to our success has been the use of mobile clinics which enable us to meet the communities directly on the ground, in schools, in markets, and to offer immediate legal assistance,” Cathy Lecrenier continues.
A crucial element of the project is the opportunity for women to play an active role in their own communities, by becoming ambassadors for gender equality during meetings with local leaders, public presentations concerning gender-based violence, and discussions where they are invited to share their experiences.
Helen is a member of the “Butemwa” (meaning “joy”) women’s group. During their meetings she and the other members of the group increase their knowledge of their rights, while also learning the skills to run community banks or small businesses.
“I would like to see this group grow, to see how we can move forward as women, how to develop our skills and our knowledge so that we can become more independent and be better placed to help other women in our community. I believe that this more than anything will help us in the fight against gender-based violence,” explains Helen.
Against the favourable backdrop of this project, ASF wishes you a good 8 March and continues to work for gender equality, which is the basis of a fairer society.
The project is implemented in two provinces over a period of two years. It benefits from European Union support.