My first Draft ( I will really appreciate your comments)
In Africa Zambia is one of the most urbanized countries and enjoys a reasonable level of democracy. Although this situation should have benefited every one including women, the over all situation remains challenging for the vulnerable who are women. Tradition has for a long time been used to promote patriarchy in a Zambian society and imposes a lot of restriction on women. Over all women have extremely limited rights. Men lend, women follow. Cultural which for a long time sidelined women and promoted male dominance has thus resorted to discrimination against women; Gender based violence and gender inequality. It is from this background of a society that prompted Iris phiri to become a traditional counselor better known as Alagizi “Women are taught to respect their husbands but these men don’t respect their wives, says Dr Iris phiri in brownish traditional Chitenge outfit which fitted her well.” We need to change our culture in order to balance men and women. A new culture which will be appreciated by all”, she emphasized.
According to the Zambia demographic health survey about 80% of Zambian wives find it acceptable to be beaten by their husband as a form of chastisement. Nearly one third of Zambian women have been subjected to violence in one of its many forms. Historically women were considered to be inferior and expected to be submissive to men. Although some traditional norms are taking a new paradigm shift, however the traditional aspect which puts an emphasis on men making decisions and women inferiority continue to be firm. This can be stretched from both the social, economic and political aspect of the society. Thus the rights of women have been violated for a long period of time.
“Because of the cultural norms in this country men think it is normal to beat their wives”, says YWCA crisis center program officer Mary sinyinda
During puberty and marriage ceremonies, women continue to undergo intensive traditional training on how to take care of a home and their husbands to be. Culturally women are encouraged not to discuss what occurs in the house and bed room out side the home. Most women suffer the ill-treatment of their husbands and accept it as a form of punishment for their disobedience. Husbands are traditionally the heads of families in Zambia. They have sole parental authority and make most of the important household decisions, including those regarding the use of contraception.
“The experience I encountered around me prompted me to form an organization which helps women”, says a traditional counselor Dr Irish phiri.” Women battered by their husbands, young girls incubated in the house because they had reached puberty stage, these girls remained in the house for six months and missed school to be taught how to take care of husbands”. She explains
Inequalities between women and men in Zambia are rooted in pre-colonial social relations and practices, the country’s colonial history and post-independence attempts to achieve nationhood, economic prosperity and social well-being. The way a girl is brought up makes her believe that she is underneath a man and has no rights. Girls and women receive more instruction than boys and men in a house. Young girls and boys are brought up differently; girls are given more work than boys and a girl does more work on land or in a house than a boy.
. “This has enabled young children to believe that that’s the way of life” says Dr Iris
On the other side the country’s customary law puts a woman on a disadvantaged position and up hold the rights of a man. In the event of divorce following a legal marriage, the courts grant child custody in the best interests of the children. In the case of separation after a customary marriage, the children typically stay with the father once a husband dies women become more scared of the activities that surround her, during the mourning period, most widows are expected not to eat or talk to anyone. Property grabbing and sexual cleaning leave widows in vulnerable position such as HIV positive and poverty.
According to a 1989 law, widows have the right to inherit 20% of their husbands’ property; by contrast, widowers are entitled to inherit all of their wives’ property Despite the 1989 law, most families follow customary practice in which the deceased’s family claims it is entitled to seize the estate.. Behind the silence of a woman lies the pain of been a woman. What can be considered as abnormal has been accepted as normal to majority of most women.
Although traditional counselors are mostly the perpetrators of male dominance and in many instances promote gender inequality, the Zambia national traditional counselors association has a different objective all together. The organization which was formed on 14th October 1997 by a female activist Iris phiri aims at promoting Gender equality among the citizen and empowers women.
Zambia national traditional counselor is one of the few traditional organization promoting women rights and Gender equality in the nation. The organization was formed to help women know and understand their rights within the community. The organization uses many form to reach affected women, they have the national offices which are situated in Lusaka George compound. They do community sensitization to educate women on their rights and to promote gender equality. They also use TV and radio phone in programs to reach thousands of women who are victims of patriarchy. On muvi TV which is currently airing around the global through free to air, Dr Iris phiri appears almost every Thursday on a gender based program.
The organization works with organizations such as young women Christian association of Zambia (YWCA) and victim support. Women who are victims of abuse and violence are linked to these organizations for further assistance.
According to ministry of Health women lack complete control over their lives and taught from the early childhood to be obedient and submissive to their males, particularly males who commands power such as a father, uncle, elder brother or guardian. Male dominance and lack of assertiveness on the part a women put them at risk, in sexual relations; a woman is expected to please her male partner, even at the expense of her own pleasure or wellbeing.
“My husband used to beat me and mistreated me lamented Grace a member of the Zambia traditional counselor association. I didn’t know I had rights, it is only when I approached Dr Iris that I received help” she explained in Nyanja.
Grace learned that she had rights and can take her husband to court if he continued beating her. Zambia national tradition association also promotes gender equality through couple counseling.
Gender equality is not about destroying marriage, says Dr Iris phiri
Most women who exercise their rights are often considered to be rebellious and are likely to be divorced and become victims of violence; some are considered as outcast, when they refuse to adhere to certain beliefs. When a husband dies a woman who refuse to be cleaned then is be threatened to lose her mind.
Dr Iris phiri and her team in their tradition counseling encourage women who seek counseling to involve their partners. This is in order to break the gender stereotype which exists especially to a man’s side. “There is need to incorporate male voice in advancing equal participation of men and women in gender equality and participation in decision making position “ kambikambi said this is according to story underneath IPS
The need to involve men in educating women rights will contribute to the breaking of the gender inequality which exists. Men have to understand that a woman is not inhuman but human too.
“My husband is now a changed person, after he was counseled and educated about women rights by Alagizi; he is now very supportive and helps me in the house” explains Grace.
The organization currently has 172 branches runned by women in different provinces of Zambia including the copperbelt, choma, chipata and 200,000 people have benefited from the program.
The organization receives funding from non-governmental organization coordinating committee “NGOCC” and the Basket fund.
In order to sustain the organization activities and promote girl child education, Dr Iris phiri has opened a community school in George compound. The school has a total of 12 teachers of which two have been taken for teacher’s training course by the organization.
Cultural beliefs are the biggest obstacles to fighting gender violence says Mary sinyinda
Breaking the chains of traditions is not easy, culture changes slow and needs concerted efforts from both the traditional leaders and government. Traditional leaders need to be educated on the efforts of traditions which undermine women.
We need to educate and train chiefs on gender equality because these are leaders and people who can bring change to our culture. Says Iris.
There is also need to develop gender equality curriculum for traditional counselors so that, traditional counselors can follow same guideline. She adds
Chiefs are still regarded as leaders of the land in different provinces of Zambia. These are traditional leaders who make decisions and are respected and consulted by all including government officials. These chiefs have continued to uphold traditional customs in their chiefdoms. But if these chiefs are educated about the benefits of gender equality in their communities they can be able to influence their chiefdoms and bring about a culture which does not discriminate.
According to WiLDAF, in 1980 The Zambian government signed to the convention of the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) and in 1985 it began addressing problem concerning the discrimination of women in 1985 by setting up a desk for women in the ministry of finance and national planning. Meanwhile in 2000 the government adopted the National Gender policy.
The national traditional association of Zambia works with the government in different areas and receives assistance such as transport to carry out activities in the country under culture department of the ministry of community development but Iris demands that the government should do more.
We need more female members of parliament (MPs), we also need to work with women (MPs) who will understand us better and support our work she explains. Government should appoint more female ministers. She adds.
In 2008, the gender activist called for the establishment of the national tribunal to fight gender discrimination and sensitize the general public, policy-markers and law enforcement officials about women rights. They also said the country needs higher numbers of women in position of power, in business as well as in politics. Zambia is a signatory to the southern Africa development community (SADC) and African union protocols is that commit to attaining 50 percent participation of men and women in political decision making. However, this stipulation is not yet reflected in the country’s political setting. Zambia has only 15% female member of parliament
Although the national traditional association is expanding, the resources are limited. The organization is in need of financial and technical support to reach the typical rural areas. They also need to publish materials in local language which will be easy for the illiterate to comprehend.
“We need transport for community awareness, we also need to reach chiefs and people in remote rural areas so that they change their mind set and incorporate gender equality in their traditional customs”. Iris the owner and founder of the Zambia National traditional counselor association says.
So far there are no reports of men refusing to accept women rights, men actually call to thank us for counseling them. She adds
In order to combat the gender inequality and traditional customs which underrate women, there is need for government to support tradition organizations working to change and remove certain cultures which discriminate women. Such organizations as Zambia national traditional association use the traditional strategy to help both men and women understand the rights of women. It is also a call to international donors to look in this direction because once knowledge is imparted in chiefs, traditional leaders, change is coming.
The wish for every woman is to be accepted and recognized in society. Every culture is unique and exciting in its own way. What a joy it can be to have a culture, tradition which is non discriminatory, but appreciated, acceptable and upheld by all.