Ambassador Kanni Wignaraja regrets high school dropouts
By Derrick Sinjela published on Monday 11th July 2011
Only 25 percent of all adult women in Zambia have reached secondary or higher level of education compared to 44.2 percent of their male counterparts; and drop-outs rates are still very high, too high, for girls, says United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator Kanni Wignaraja.
Wignaraja called for increased number of girls completing secondary school, and eventually proceeding to higher levels of tertiary education.
Speaking during the Gender and Business-view from the top Breakfast Meeting, convened at the Taj Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka, Wignaraja called for increased investment in girls and women’s education and literacy.
“Legislation is needed and must then be enforced by all to ensure a Decent Work Agenda and to remove wage differentials. Women are underrepresented in political decision making spheres. The current Zambian parliament has a very low representation of women at 11%, which is even lower than before. Rwanda is at over 54%,” Wignaraja observed.
Wignaraja challenged the private sector to actively contribute to narrowing the current gender gaps and creation of enabling environment for women to participate in formal sector employment, through measures meant to improve access to affordable credit and ownership of land.
“Yesterday, we launched the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)’s 2011 Global Human Development Report. The theme of this report is “Sustainability and Equity – A Better Future for All”. The report provides critical information and ranking of country performance in the progress towards human development. Affirmative action through a progressive quota system is needed to enable women enter into a currently distorted political playing field. No country can attain higher levels of human development once women citizens as a majority lag,” Wignaraja warned.
Meanwhile, Dr Freddie Kwesiga Resident Representative of the African Development Bank, Zambia Country Office said women acted as key agents of social and economic change and played a pivotal role in the socio-economic development activities of progressive societies.
Citing the 2007 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS), Dr Kwesiga observed that 60 % of the total female population was said to have been economically active.
“Hence, in order for there to be maximum utilization of human resources, women have to be fully integrated into the economic process. Some of the major hindrances of women’s participation in the formal sector are socially and culturally ascribed gender roles; gender disparities; gender bias regarding education and training, even food to be eaten; and hampered access to asset ownership which is further exacerbated by the fact that some banks still require women to obtain written consent from men before issuing a loan or other form of credit. This must be practically reversed as outlined in the National Gender Policy of March 2000,” Dr Kwesiga emphasized.
However, Dr Kwesiga noted that Zambian women had over time taken a lead in advancing women empowerment roles, like Victoria Kalima, the CEO of Plant Agrichem and founder of Victoria Kalima Women Initiative (VKWI).
“Successes within the Zambian business arena illustrating women leadership include Zambia National Building Society, Standard Chartered Bank, Ecobank, Access Bank, Citibank, Security and Exchange Commission and the Electoral Commission of Zambia. Regulators and policymakers need to understand the plight faced by women within the business realm. This understanding will generate policies that could result in inclusive gender-friendly regulations. Problems regarding women’s access to credit are further exacerbated by the inability of potential entrepreneurs to fulfill the collateral requirements put into place by financial institutions. From an African banking systems perspective, this problem revolves around weak legal regulations that hinder lenders from recovering the full value of their pledged collateral,” Kwesiga prodded.
Dr Kwesiga restated that the African Development Bank in 2004, launched the African Women in Business Initiative (AWBI), with the aim of responding to the Bank’s Private Sector Development Strategy’s emphasis on the role of women in business and to call for empowering women entrepreneurs through better access to finance and enhance women entrepreneurship development in Africa.