The Constitution: Article 45 (1) of the new constitution stipulates that Zambia’s electoral system for the election of President, Member of Parliament or Councilor must ensure fair representation of the various interest groups in society and that there should be gender equity in the National Assembly or Council. Furthermore, Article 231 provides for the long sought after Gender Equity and Equality Commission. The enacted 2015 Gender Equity and Equality Act (GEEA) is a progressive piece of legislation, which seeks to domesticate some of the women’s rights and gender provisions in regional, continental and international instruments to which Zambia is party to. The National Gender Policy has a clear objective that states: To increase the participation of women in decision making at all levels of development in the public and private sectors. However, political parties still need to take up affirmative action measures to ensure that more women are incorporated at all levels of political party decision making levels and adopted in various disciplines.
Often, policies exist at the national level, but local community members, usually women, aren’t aware of them. The lack of awareness means these women do not know how to support the policies. While policies that exist nationally might aim to address gender inequality; without commitment by all stakeholder levels, there is no guarantee that policies created will be sustained or implemented.
In Zambia, women remain marginalized from meaningfully participating in the governance of the country. In 2016, there were 6, 698, 372 Zambians from a population of about 15 million who were registered to vote. United Nations estimates are that about 51 per cent of the population are women. Out of the total number of women, only 850, 771 registered to vote. Women who were initially adopted by political parties in the ward, constituency, district and provincial nomination processes were left out and replaced by men at national level. This has seen marginal increase in women’s representation in Parliament and Local Government at 17% and 9% respectively during the 2016 elections compared to 11% and 7% registered in the 2011 elections. Obviously this is still far below the SADC and African Union gender parity requirement of 50% at all levels of decision making.
In Zambia, almost all prominent media institutions are owned, dominated, directed, or managed by men. As a result the reporting patterns and media coverage were dependent on paying for the service or who owned the media institutions. In 2016, 81% of media space was reserved for men leaving only 19% space for women. Worse still, only 5% of coverage was on and about women candidates. In the past 25years media institutions’ responses to the elections have largely and broadly, remained unaltered.