Welcome Remarks by UN Resident Coordinator Dr Coumba Mar Gadio at Virtual High Level Dialogue on Increasing Women’s Participation in Political Processes and Addressing Violence Against Women in Elections - 21 April 2021

Her Honour the Vice President of the Republic of Zambia, Mrs. Inonge Mutukwa Wina
Your Excellency, former President of Liberia, H.E. Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

 

  • Her Ladyship Hon. Justice Irene Mambilima
  • First Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Zambia – Hon. Catherine Namugala
  • Chairperson of the Zambia Womens’ Parliamentary Caucus
  • Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Ms. Amina J Mohammed
  • All Cabinet Ministers
  • Members of Parliament
  • UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem
  • UN Women Executive Director, Ms. Pumzile Mlambo Ngeuka
  • UN Zambia Resident Coordinator, Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio
  • All Panelists
  • Members of the Diplomatic Corps
  • Representatives from Civil Society Organisations
  • Representatives from various Political Parties
  • Our dearest women and girls from all walks of life
  • Members of the press
  • Ladies and gentlemen

The United Nations in Zambia is honoured and very delighted to co-host, with the Government of the Republic of Zambia, this high-level dialogue on women’s participation in politics and addressing violence against women in elections. I wish to extend a special welcome to Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and also convey sincere thanks to Ms. Amina J Mohammed, the UN Deputy Secretary General for her message to us all during this event. A special welcome to all the distinguished panellists and to our invited guests. We sincerely appreciate that you have taken time out of your very busy schedules to be here – this reflects the significance of this event is. This event comes at the heels of the 65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, last month.

Your Honour, ladies and gentlemen,

Indeed, it has been 65 years that issues concerning women and their status in our societies, have been discussed! Every year we have had calls for action to lift the status of women and girls. We acknowledge efforts made to date, but to be honest, these efforts are still not enough! We need to have more concerted and tangible actions if we are to see the change we want.

In line with the objectives for this event, I sincerely hope that our discussion today will culminate into key actions aimed at improving and increasing Zambian women’s Political Participation and Representation in politics and that we will be able to explore ways to stop violence against women during the August 2021 General election period and beyond.

I would like to commend the Government of the Republic of Zambia for progress made in addressing equality, including putting in place policy and legal frameworks which include the enactment of the Anti-Gender Based Violence Act and the Gender Equity and Equality Act. As a run up to the 2016 Tripartite Elections, with support from FCDO which was DFID then – and the UN, the Ministry of Gender developed the “2014-2016 Count Her in Strategy”, which had the aim of having at least 50% women successfully contest the 2016 elections. To this effect, in 2016, there were 106 women who were adopted as parliamentary candidates, out of a total of 651 candidates, representing 16.3%. The proportion of women in Parliament increased from 12.6% in 2015 to 18.1% in 2017.  In addition, there were 466 female candidates for local government elections, and Zambia saw an increase in the proportion of women elected as councilors from 6.5% in 2011 to 10% in 2016.

To address gender-based violence, the UN with financial contributions from Sweden, Ireland and DFID, has supported two joint programmes on GBV, that have strengthened existing and established new mechanisms for combatting gender-based violence. These include strengthening the capacities of the Zambia Police Victim Support Units and the establishment of 6 GBV Fast Track Courts, to name but a few. Under a multi donor funded Elections Project, the Zambia Police were capacitated with skills for effective policing of elections, including the handing of electoral violence.

To Strengthen Electoral Institutions and Processes including Electoral Commission, Police, Judiciary, National Assembly, political parties, media and civil society and enhance conflict prevention and mitigation mechanisms to support the peaceful conduct of elections, UN Zambia - with UNDP as technical lead agency is implementing the Democratic Strengthening in Zambia Project (DSZ). This is a multi-year multi-donor USD 12 million basket fund established for the period 2020 to 2022 with support from the EU, Sweden, USA, Ireland, Germany, France.

We certainly do not want the gain from these efforts to be lost. However, a lot still remains to be done, especially as we look towards the upcoming 2021 Tripartite Elections.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As indicated earlier, the 2016 Zambian Parliament only had about 18% participation of women; local government had 6%. This situation is reflected in other decision making positions. At Cabinet level, only 20% of the appointments are female, whilst in the civil service, only 23.2% of Permanent Secretaries are women and 29% are Directors. the Zambian Constitution guarantees political equality of women and men, however without affirmative action laws or policies this may just remain more of a theory than practice.

There is a need for a strong advocacy and voice to ensure that such affirmative action laws or policies are in place to enforce the adoption of more female candidates by political parties. Increased civic awareness and a political consciousness amongst the citizenry are important to create awareness on the importance of gender equality in changing the course of development and hence women’s political participation and voice is a must to bring about this transformation. Women in Zambia are 51% of the population and hence they have the right to participate in the political and development process of their country. Without doubt, their participation is key to address the roots of poverty as they are the ones who experience it the most and at its worst. Violence against women in various forms, intimidates and deters women from participating in active politics.  In addition, the perpetuation of violence against women is closely linked to poverty, and hence participation of women in politics can positively influence our society.

The capacity of women who are in leadership should be strengthened and expanded. There is need for support structures and networks, to share common experiences, lessons, useful practices and new information. This way, women leaders can also build a critical mass of support, and forge a common agenda around common issues. Confidence building and mentoring of young women leaders is of particular importance.  In this regard, the onus is on all of us to do so.

I believe that the women in this audience are already forging the way – and all the men here are supporting them. Through your demonstrated leadership vision and roles, you carry the torch forward to ensure that the leadership space in Zambia is open to all, men and women, young and old, from all faiths and all tribes and all political parties.

Let me end by thanking Her Honour the Vice President for mooting the idea of this High-Level Dialogue and forging the partnership with the UN to ensure that this event holds.

It is my sincere hope that we shall have fruitful deliberations and that this is the beginning of a commitment to real action for increasing women’s participation and addressing violence against women in the Zambian political arena.

I thank you.

Speech by
Author
Coumba Mar Gadio
Resident Coordinator
RCO
Coumba Mar Gadio, PhD
UN entities involved in this initiative
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
UNDP
United Nations Development Programme
UNFPA
United Nations Population Fund