Gender justice project changes lives in Western Province in Zambia

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“I didn’t know that in the event that my husband dies, I have the right to go my own way and not be inherited like a piece of furniture.”  Mulima Akapelwa (photo by Bellah Zulu)

The Joint Country programme, Norwegian Church Aid – DanChurchAid – Christian Aid, in Zambia and European Union co-funded ‘Access to Justice Project’ has empowered women in Mwandi and Sesheke Districts of Western Province of Zambia with knowledge on their rights and how to claim them.

‘Canvassing Contours and Ridges: Towards Gender Justice in Eastern and Western Provinces of Zambia’ is a deliberate integration of interventions seeking to improve access to justice for women, survivors and victims of gender-based violence (GBV) in the target areas. It is implemented by Norwegian Church Aid Zambia partner organisation, Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Education Trust (WLSA) Zambia.

“I didn’t know that in the event that my husband dies, I have the right to go my own way and not be inherited like a piece of furniture,” said Mulima Akapelwa, one of the residents from Sawmills area in Sesheke District who is among the men and women trained as paralegals in the area. She revealed this during a joint monitoring trip conducted by NCA Zambia, WLSA Zambia and the Zambian Governance Foundation.

However this project would not have been a success without recognising the important role that religious leaders, traditional leaders and the Zambia Police Service among others play in contributing to increased access to justice in Zambia. It is for this reason that the project was designed with utmost consideration of their strength and added value.

Sharon Soko is a police officer and trained counsellor at the Victims Support Unit in Sesheke District. “We handle a lot of cases including physical and sexual violence, but there is need for more sensitisation on how people should keep evidence,” she said. Ms Soko raised a very key issue and challenge in the project. “We have to keep women and children who may be victims or survivors of GBV in wrong places because we do not have a central drop-in centre or a female cell,” she said.

 

Combating old traditional practices

 

It’s hard to attain gender justice in Zambia without interrogating the role that some traditional cultural practices play in perpetuating gender injustices. This is because some forms of GBV are inherent in negative old traditional cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, early marriages and generally practices that relegate the woman’s role to the kitchen.

Therefore one thing worth noting in this project is the support and enthusiasm shown by the members of the Barotse Royal Establishment in Mwandi in addressing issues of GBV in their chiefdoms. For instance two female ‘Indunas’ (traditional court members) were among those availed by the ‘Kuta’ (traditional court) for training as paralegals by the project.

“So far the project in our area is going well especially that two of the female Indunas have been trained as paralegals to help advance gender justice aspects within the chiefdom,” said Induna Afungateka, a female Induna whose actual names are Nakatindi Akatama. “Now we are able to help others access legal help in our chiefdom and address other cases ourselves which has led to saving marriages in some cases.”

 

Religious leaders show the way

 

Another key player in the fight against GBV are religious leaders because some people misinterpret church doctrine and the Bible in their relationships or marriages which may encourage GBV. This is why the Pastors’ Fellowship in Western Province is among those organisations and institutions included in the local anti-GBV committees in Mwandi and Sesheke Districts.

Read Bellah Zulu’s article in full on the DanChurchAid website HERE.

Posted by: Terrie Robinson | Thursday, June 8th, 2017
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