According to the World Bank (2017), at 18 per cent, Zambia has the lowest proportion of seats held by women in national parliament in Sub Saharan Africa. The regional average is projected at just below 25 per cent.

Low levels of female political representation in Zambia are considered to undermine the quality of the country’s democracy.   

Key barriers to women’s political participation include the structure of the current legal framework, a political culture embedded with patriarchal values and norms that are unsupportive to female candidates, and a lack of personal wealth or access to resources to fund campaigns.

On 19 December 2017, the Zambia National Women’s Lobby (ZNWL) held a press briefing to launch the ‘Empowering Women in Politics for Enhanced Leadership and Decision Making Project’.

The project is managed by the British Council via the Zambia Accountability Programme (ZAP). Grants from ZAP towards the Women’s Lobby aim to improve participation, performance, and retention of elected female leaders, at both local and national levels, through mentoring and capacity building.  

The project builds on the gains made during a precursor project, also implemented through the Women’s Lobby, which sought to increase women’s representation at parliamentary and local government levels during the 2016 election.

Speaking at the project launch, ZAP Programme Director, Mr. Adebayo Akindeinde, said:

‘Women account for over half of the population in Zambia but this is not proportionately reflected in the statistics of women holding public office. The project aims to increase women’s representation in politics but it does not end there; it will also support women when they do get elected to office by giving them skills to competently perform their civic duties.’

In support of the above, ZNWL Board member, Sylvia Nyambe, confirmed the Women’s Lobby will provide capacity support on an individual needs based approach. She also disclosed how the project will work to advocate for legislative and policy reforms for the implementation of laws to promote gender balance and equity in Zambia’s governance structures.

Also in attendance, Deputy Mayor of the City of Lusaka, Ms Chilando Chitangala, noted:

‘Women are perceived that they should be at home, especially in rural areas. Even when a woman holds a position in a political party, it is still like she is in the kitchen and she is expected to perform the ‘womanly’ tasks.’

The Women’s Lobby project will receive funding from both the European Union and the UK’s Department for International Development (UK Aid). Find out more about ZAP here.