Lungu launches $65m ‘gewel’ of a project

PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu yesterday officially launched a US$65 million empowerment project set to benefit 89,000 women and girls in 51 districts across the country under the “Girls Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihoods” (GEWEL) project funded by the World Bank.

President Lungu, in a speech read for him by Gender Minister Nkandu Luo, said the project would go a long way in improving the lives of 14, 000 girls and 7,500 women in various parts of rural Zambia.

The President said Zambia had registered over 6 percent growth rate for more than a decade now as evidenced in progress made in various sectors of the economy.

President Lungu, however, expressed sadness that most rural people especially girls and young women had not substantially benefited from the growth owing to low productivity, lack of adequate skills and poor connectivity of many rural areas.

He said the PF government since assuming office had shown commitment in supporting women and adolescent girls through the social protection and women empowerment programmes.

“Girls and women have been particularly vulnerable because they face many other challenges unlike men. For instance, educational attainment among women is very low, making it difficult for them to find gainful employment or engage in productive enterprises.

“For girls, economic constraints, forced and early marriages and teen pregnancies, seem to be the major reasons for dropping out of school,” he said.

The Head of State said his Government would continue to upgrade basic schools into day secondary schools, sustain the fast-track upgrading programme for teachers in mathematics and science, produce and distribute mobile laboratories and computers alongside other teaching and learning materials.  “My Government will ensure that all old secondary schools constructed during the first republic are rehabilitated in order to improve the quality of service provision,” President Lungu said.

He added that his Government would endeavour to construct new education facilities, provide scholarships and empower women in households so that a provision for continued education for girls was guaranteed.

“It is for this reason as indicated by the Minister of Gender, Nkandu Luo, that my Government sourced US$65 million for girl’s education and women empowerment,” he said.

President Lungu said the PF government remained committed to enhancing education opportunities and promote the rights of the girl child, particularly in removing the impediments that inhibited their progression.

And World Bank country director Ina Ruthenberg said the US$65 million set aside for the project was a substantial investment on the part of the Zambian Government meant to provide a safety net for the vulnerable.

Ms. Ruthenberg said the supporting women’s livelihoods initiative to be implemented by the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare was targeting 7,500 poor and vulnerable women aged 19 to 64 in 51 districts.And Secretary to the Cabinet Roland Msiska said women and girls were indispensable to social and economic welfare of society.

In a speech read for him by Gender permanent secretary Edwidge Mutale, Dr. Msiska said the launch of GEWEL was a clear demonstration of Government’s commitment to facilitate the empowerment process of women and girls in the country