Female parliamentary leaders in Zambia are the focus of an article in the Zambia Daily Mail about fighting gender based violence and child marriage. The article notes that with funding from Sweden, the Southern Africa Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) is implementing a four-year project to build the capacity of women Parliamentarians in general and National Parliaments in particular to advocate for universal access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment, and related governance issues.
The article states that Zambia faces unique issues of SRHR. These include limited access to sexual and reproductive health information and services among young people, teenage pregnancy and child marriage, gender-based violence, HIV prevalence, poor sexual and reproductive health rate and maternal mortality. The Minister of Gender, Prof Luo says the caucus of female parliamentarians worked closely with her ministry in implementing a four-year strategic plan, which provides for actions to be taken by various partners.
The following highlights are edited from the article:
The SADC is preparing a Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and protecting those already in marriage. The Parliamentary Forum is spearheading the development of this regional law. Government, through the Ministry of Gender, has also mooted the 2016-2021 national strategy on ending child marriage in Zambia by 2030. Zambia has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates globally, with 31.4 percent of girls aged 20 to 24 married by the age of 18.
Pregnancy and childbirth
Ms Zandonda says fewer women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth as maternal mortality rates have dropped from 729 in 2002 to 398 in 2014. “More women are able to decide if, when and how often to have children as contraceptive prevalence rates have increased from nine percent in 1992 to 45 percent in 2014. More mothers have access to maternal health services as reflected by a rise in births assisted by a skilled attendant from 50 percent in 1992 to 64 percent in 2014,” she says. However, Ms Zandonda notes that significant inequalities remain, which limit equitable access to quality sexual reproductive health information and services. For adolescents, only 18 percent of sexually active unmarried girls and 36 percent of married girls aged 15 to 19 are currently using modern contraception.
The 2014 Zambia and Demographic and Health Survey indicates that 43 percent of women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and that the most commonly reported perpetrators of physical violence among married women are current partners (63 percent) followed by former partners (29 percent). However, in spite of this increase, the unmet need for family planning among this cohort of women remains relatively high at 21 percent. Data also indicates that almost 30 percent of girls aged between 15 and 19 have experienced physical or sexual violence from a husband or partner.