7 March 2016
Brussels/Lusaka – On International Women’s Day, Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) presents its new project for Zambia. In this country, like many others, women are particularly vulnerable. In partnership with the Zambian Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), ASF aims to help women to claim and exercise their rights, and promote gender equality.
Many obstacles stand between the population of Zambia and the exercise of their rights: people in general lack knowledge and awareness of their rights, courts are not easily accessible and access to legal advice and support is too costly. The legal system is based on both written and customary law which frequently contradict each other, making some legal regulations incoherent and resulting in widespread corruption.
Women in particular, as well as other vulnerable groups, are the true victims of this situation, whilst they also suffer cultural prejudices regarding their position in society. Customary law is sometimes at loggerheads with the concept of gender equality. Often, even legal professionals lack knowledge of women’s rights. Even though the law has been amended to include far stricter punishment for offenders, women are regularly the target of discrimination on both a legal and social level, as well as gender-based violence.
“In collaboration with the YWCA organisation, which has been working in the country for nearly 60 years, we aim to enable women to have better control over their lives and strengthen their rights. This will have positive repercussions on their socio-economic status, but also on that of their families and communities as a whole“, explained Chantal van Cutsem, ASF Strategic Coordinator.
The two organisations will implement a number of initiatives: services to provide women with information regarding their rights and human rights in general; lawyers and legal advisors will also provide support to victims of gender-based violence; the various professionals involved will also be given training and capacity building. These initiatives will in turn provide the information necessary to make legal cases for the incorporation of international legislation guaranteeing women’s right into domestic law and the implementation of national legal aid systems.
“Women are not the only people targeted by our project“, points out Godfrey Mupanga, ASF Project Leader in Zambia. “In fact, it is essential to include men as well, the traditional community leaders, police services that deal with gender-based violence, public institutions, and so on. Only by changing mentalities and practices at every level can we make progress“.
The project will be implemented in two provinces in the north of the country over a period of two years. It will benefit from European Union support.