There are still too few women at local and national levels of leadership, says veteran politician Dr Vernon Mwaanga.
Dr Mwaanga said that it could not be denied that the role of women in politics and development was being increasingly recognized everywhere, he said.
He was speaking at the national conference of “Female Councilors and Women in Politics” organized by the Zambia National Women’s Lobby under the theme “Celebrating 50 Years of Independence: Lessons of Women’s Participation in Politics”.
“In the SADC and African Union (AU) regions commitments have been made by governments for women to hold at least 50 per cent of important policy decision-making positions, which include elected offices, such as parliaments and local councils,” he said.
Dr Mwaanga said it was a pity that it had to come to what appeared to be a “quota” allocation system for women, within a defined time frame.
“Women in Zambia have very ably demonstrated that they are just as capable as men in terms of ability, professionalism, enterprise, application and leadership and on the basis of this alone, they have earned the right to political leadership purely on merit and not by statute,” he said.
Dr Mwaanga observed that there had been a slow and disappointing growth in the number of women parliamentarians and councilors in Zambia.
“It is a matter of utmost regret that in fact, we have recently witnessed these numbers declining. All political parties must share responsibility for this disappointing state of affairs,” he said.
Dr Mwaanga noted that in most political parties, the selection systems were manifestly tailored in favour of men.
“The up-turn to this is that a high proportion of women elected to Parliament, because of their small numbers, end up being appointed ministers or deputy ministers,” he said.
Dr Mwaanga however observed that in other disciplines, a lot more progress was being made.
“We have seen the appointment of a number of female permanent secretaries, Supreme and High Court judges, chairpersons of important institutions, heads of diplomatic missions, chief executive officers of private and parastatal companies,” he said.
Dr Mwaanga expressed happiness that the Auditor-General and Clerk of the National Assembly for the first time in the 50 years of Zambia’s independence were both females.
“Statistics available also show that female headed households are on the ascendency and so are women heads of NGOS,” he said.
Dr Mwaanga said women in other parts of Africa were making progress in participating in politics.
He said women in Zambia still had a difficult mountain to climb and even more difficult to stay at the top of that mountain.
“You cannot do it without supporting each other ; you still have too many barriers to break through despite progress so far made in several critical areas,” he said.
Dr Mwaanga told women that traditions should not hold them back, adding that they could be used as catalysts for change.
“Education though desirable is not everything, but the lack of it does not and should not disqualify a woman from excelling; there is no substitute to hard work, inner courage and determination,” he said.
Dr Mwaanga said because there was an engrained skepticism towards women’s ability to succeed in Zambia and in Africa generally, women aspiring for leadership roles nationally or at local council levels, must work doubly hard and take huge doses of courage to succeed.