UN RC Statement International Women's Day 2018

Transforming women's lives will not happen unless we can, ourselves as women, deal with the issues that hold women back and keep women down.

International Women’s Day Commemoration

Lusaka, 8 March 2018

Remarks by the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Janet Rogan

" Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives "

Your Honour the Vice President of the Republic of Zambia, Mrs Inonge Wina, MP The Hon Chief Justice, Mrs Irene Mambilima

Hon Victoria Kalima, MP, Minister of Gender Cabinet Ministers

Senior Government Officials Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Representatives of Civil Society Organisations Media colleagues

Ladies and gentlemen Women in Zambia

I am honoured once again to be representing the UN in Zambia on International Womens Day. Today's theme is about activism. Acting to make a difference. For me personally that means using this platform on this special day once a year to speak out on issues troubling us as women in Zambia and encouraging all women in Zambia to become activists in their own right.

Transforming women's lives will not happen unless we can, ourselves as women, deal with the issues that hold women back and keep women down. Last year I learned a new word in local language.

Shipikisha. I think it's a Bemba word but it's not one of those confusing Bemba phrases - everyone knows shipikisha: suffering in silence, especially where crimes of gender-based violence are perpetrated in the home. We said last year, No More Shipikisha! No more silently suffering violence and the repression, no more hiding the rape of a woman, no more hushing up the rape of the Zambian girl child at the sickening rate of 5 or 6 a day, every day of the year. No more Shipikisha in Zambia.

In the last few months, we have learned that Shipikisha is not just a Zambian word. We find that all over the world, women have been shipikisha-ing.

Famous Hollywood film stars whose films win Oscars and make millions at the box office have spoken out about years of sexual harassment, rape, blackmail by men who were famous film directors and producers. Women sexually abused by famous men in international television and news media have spoken out. Top women athletes at the Olympic level have broken their silence about coaches who abused them from childhood, and they have called out the people who knew about it and said nothing. In UN agencies, even in UN peacekeeping missions, and in international NGOs, men of many nationalities have abused women and got away with it for years because the women suffered in silence. In all these cases, there were others who knew about it, but somehow no-one said anything. Shipikisha. Everywhere.

Now, these high profile global cases with famous women breaking their silence are important because it gives us ordinary women courage. We can see that those famous women were made afraid by those abusive men who threatened their livelihoods. They were told - if you don't give in to me, I will take away your livelihood, I will make sure that you never work again. I will shame you in the eyes of your friends and family. This is important because we see that those famous, wealthy, successful women were under exactly the same pressure as our women in Zambia who have been taught to be dependent on their husbands - the so-called head of their household - for their upkeep, and feel they therefore have no alternative but to suffer the beatings and the rapes in silence, even when the so-called head of the household is not a head but only a neck that swivels this way and that, looking for something other outside the marriage.

Our women in both rural and urban communities still face these issues because it is a question of power. The men want control over women's lives but without taking responsibility. There are men in our communities who beat their wives for leaving home and going to the clinic for HIV testing. But it is her right. The highest rate of new HIV infections are among adolescent girls between the age of 15 and 24 and men between the ages of 25 and 35. The data reveals what is happening out there. Older men are having unprotected sex with our young girls and infecting them with HIV. They make the girl pregnant. A baby is born HIV-positive. Is that fair? No, it is the exercise of power without responsibility. We really don't need to hold workshops about this. We need for men to just stop. Cha-pwa. Kwa-mana. Enough is enough. Twachula pa fula. Shipikisha? Kufe-lile.

I am using this platform to say these things strongly and plainly because people still need to hear that women in Zambia, like women everywhere, have the right to live in peace without fear for their life; they have the right to non-discrimination; they have the right to equality in the workplace; they have  the right to access land and finance; they have the right to education; they have the right to control their own bodies; they have the right to say no; they have the right to leave the house and go to the clinic to be tested for HIV, or any other health test; they have the right not to be raped; they have the right not to be beaten. And they have the right to be part of decision-making at every level. They have the right to speak out.

So, if there is no more shipikisha, what happens? What does life after shipikisha look like? Breaking the silence means taking up rights under the law and reporting crimes of gender-based violence, crimes of discrimination. And indeed we are seeing an increase in reporting of crimes of gender-based violence, though many cases are still withdrawn before they reach court. It's not easy, but almost 3000 more GBV cases were reported in 2017 than in 2016 (21,504 cases in 2017 against 18,540 for 2016). This means that women know their rights under the law and are taking the courage to report violations. And with the new Fast Track Courts for GBV crimes, cases are dealt with very quickly. 85% of cases of assault occasioning actual bodily harm were on women. There were 2,279 cases of child rape of which 9 were rapes of boys and the rest of girls. This is a slight reduction from 2016, when there were 2,363 child rapes. But it is still devastatingly high. We must speak out.

A woman with the courage to break the silence is also a woman who has a vision that her life should and can be different. She is a woman who says I will no longer accept being abused and deprived of my rights; I will no longer protect a perpetrator. She is a woman who knows her own worth. In or out of marriage, I will go back to school and finish my grade 12, even while supporting my own children through school. I will find my way to university and continue my education. In or out of marriage, I will support myself, maybe starting by selling in the market and ending up with my own shop. I will become an activist for equality, respect, dignity, fairness, rights so my voice is heard in the community, in the village, in church groups, in local councils, in parliament. In or out of marriage, I will make sure that a daughter is brought up with her own vision and educated, and that a son is brought up to respect her. With my grade 12, I will stand as a local councillor or MP. Or I will support and campaign for a sister, or a daughter to stand. As a woman with a vision, she will make sure that in 2021 there are so many female candidates at all levels that enough women cannot fail to be adopted, enough women cannot fail to win seats all over the country. Women, the campaign for equal representation already started long ago! Rise up!

To be fair, many men are with us. I want to recognise all those men who stand shoulder to shoulder with women and behave with dignity and respect. These are the real men. I applaud the sustained leadership of HE the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, who strongly promotes gender equality and equity, who is the African Union champion for Ending Child Marriage and a UNWomen HeForShe champion. The President does not belittle women - he has been appointing them to positions of power, not as tokens, but demanding results from them! I also want to recognise our Chiefs and Traditional Leaders who are championing change, rescuing girls from early marriages and putting them back in school. And I want to recognise the many men who have signed up to the Zambia HeForShe campaign who have been working to change old attitudes and behaviours. Yet I want more:

  • To great shame, in 2016 the referendum to amend the Bill of Rights did not pass. Without it, there is a deficit in rights protection in this country even though the Constitution enshrines non-discrimination and recognises the equal worth of women and men. This needs to be dealt with.
  • The Anti-GBV Act and the two existing Fast Track Courts for GBV cases are showing people that there is a route to justice. Some Chiefs have already introduced by-laws to apply the Anti-GBV Act in their chiefdoms. We need this to happen in every Chiefdom across the land. I'm pleased to tell you that four more Fast Track Courts will be opened very soon (in Southern, Northern, Eastern and Western Provinces).
  • The Land Bill needs to be finalised and brought to Parliament and in the meantime, Government policy to allocate land plots 50-50 to women and men should be implemented properly. Local authorities should not sneer at poor women or widows who seek access to land, or seek personal profit from them, or call them mad women for living on their own and scraping their own living independently. They should do a proper job and allocate land fairly, protecting the vulnerable.

And I want more from the women in Zambia. No more shipikisha. Speak up - we don't necessarily need to launch another cha-cha-cha movement to get freedom for women but we can learn from Mama Julia Chikamoneka, who was a fierce activist and freedom fighter. Back in 1960, she took direct action when the struggle for Independence seemed to have lost momentum. She said we are tired of this situation: Lukatezi, Twanaka, Twakoka, Twaka-tala, Talema! We are tired. We are rising up as women. We are stepping up to claim and defend our rights and to become full partners in the development of the country.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in his message for this International Women’s Day said that "achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world." Sisters, we can't wait for men alone to do that for us. Here we are at Freedom Statue - that should be a woman up there! Rise up, step up, break the silence - no more shipikisha, break the chains.

Thank you.

Sustainable Development Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

  1. End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  2. Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
  3. Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
  4. Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
  5. Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
  6. Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences
    • Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws
    • Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
    • Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels
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