WOMEN and the youths are the future of Zambia because with education they can achieve anything, says Non-Government Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) executive director Engwase Mwale. Ms Mwale said education played a pivotal role in the lives of the women who were considered agents of change. She said education was key to success and should be first priority for women both in rural and urban areas for the nation to move forward. Ms Mwale said women should be highly empowered with education because if the majority of them were educated the country would be self-reliant in many sectors of the economy. She said that Zambia could only develop if more women in various fields of interests were educated, adding that only then would Zambia be a shining example to the rest of the world. “It really hurts me to note that a lot of girls and women especially in rural areas are deprived of education opportunities because they are forced to get married early due to some cultural norms that are disadvantaging the rights of the women,” said Ms Mwale. Ms Mwale said many women in various parts of Zambia did not stand in this year’s general polls in different political positions such as independent candidates or Member s of Parliament, councillors and mayors had faced numerous challenges because most of them did not have Grade 12 certificates which was a major requirement according to the new Constitution. “But all hope is not lost because the women who are not in possession of a Grade 12 certificate can do better in future because they still have a chance to go back to school and accomplish their desired goal in the political arena or other professions for a better Zambia,” Ms Mwale said. She was speaking at a post-election reflection workshop held in Kitwe yesterday for all women candidates in the last general elections regardless of whether they made it or not. She said during this year’s general elections NGOCC through the coordinated Women In Politics Project (WIPP) supported 106 female aspiring Members of Parliament, 425 aspiring councillors and 37 female aspiring Mayors/council chairpersons with campaign materials. “Very few women are elected as Members of Parliament, Mayors or as councillors and the situation has continued to be of great concern to NGOCC and the Women’s movement at large,” Ms Mwale said.