While Zambia has experienced strong economic growth in recent years, efforts are needed to increase the representation and involvement of women in leadership positions. Working towards reducing the country’s gender inequity would make growth more inclusive and would allow women and girls the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way to the country’s development. Half of Zambia’s potential will never be realized as long as there are barriers to women obtaining positions of power and influence in society.
Knowing this, we at Diaconia ECCB- Center of Relief and Development have entered into a new partnership with Join Country Program (JPC), a Zambian non-profit. The organization aims to improve economic and educational opportunities for women, and to increase the number of Zambian women in administrative and leadership positions in business, government, and civil society.
This past fall we met with JCP in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, to sign our partnership agreement and to pledge our support for the project. Our partnership will last three years. “We have a new donor and partner who shares our values,” said JPC office director, Steffen Erik Mey Rasmussen. “Our combined strength will enhance our ability to improve the lives of vulnerable women within our community.” Our coordinator of International Projects, Pavel Cedivoda, expressed excitement about the new partnership, “The JPC have years of experience in Zambia. They know the local needs and have excellent relationships with all partners. When women are not in positions of leadership within all levels of civic society, it means that half of Zambia’s potential is not being utilized.”
Together with JCP and the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), the governing body of the Catholic Church in Zambia, we are focusing our efforts on The Women in Governance (WIG) project. The project aims to increase women’s participation in leadership and decision-making in Zambia.
“This project has really helped a lot of women within our community with increased assertiveness because now more women are taking up leadership and other decision-making positions. Women also appreciate the value of self-sustainability and so we see a lot of them becoming more business-minded and seeking entrepreneurial opportunities,” said Fr. Tax Chisandule Moonga from Monze Diocese.
However, Moonga also alluded to a number of things that limit the success of the project, “All of our field workers are volunteers who have to cover long distances on foot to reach their target communities. Material resources, such as bicycles, would help improve general coverage, efficiency and participation in the program.”
“This program has helped to improve communication, the sharing of knowledge, mutual relationships and unity among the communities,” said Project Coordinator, Mrs. Ireen Mileji from the WIG office in Solwezi. “The program brings us closer to others in our communities. We interact more and learn more about one another’s challenges.”
Mr. Yohane Phiri, a Literacy Field Worker at Mzime Literacy Centre in Chipata Diocese, explained the difficulties he faces in conducting adult literacy classes, “Apart from the lack of teaching and learning materials, long distances between St. Johns and Mzime Literacy Centre is discouraging others from volunteering to teach.”
The Program Officer for Women in Governance at ZEC, Abraham Kachipansi, echoed the need for transportation options, especially for their volunteers. “One of the main challenges we face in implementing our programs is the long distances between our centers. The lack of transportation affects our mobilization, our effectiveness, and how well we can monitor various aspects of our projects.” Kachipansi said a supply of bicycles would significantly increase the number of monitoring visits the WIG team is able to make and will allow them to expand their programs.
Monitoring visits are one of the best ways to assess a project’s impact. In 2014, JCP donated a motor vehicle to ZEC to help the WIG staff monitor and evaluate their ongoing projects. However, a large need still exists in the area of transportation, especially among volunteers and participants working on the ground. “Motivation levels [of our volunteers] will also be high, as most of our fieldworkers come from low-income households and do not have access to transportation,” Kachipansi said.
Our goal is to supply WIG staff and volunteers with 100 bikes in the coming year. With a gift of $80, you can purchase one bike and make a real difference in the lives of Zambian women. JCP Program Coordinator, Jacqueline Muthee Kabalo concluded, “ When when we work to expand leadership and work opportunities for women in Zambia, not only are we assisting them in their own personal development, we are working to protect and promote human rights.”
Learn about how we purchased a bike fleet for Moldovan nurses and social workers here.