Modernising Culture and Tradition to Empower Women and Girls

Nov 30, 2017

Chief Chamuka Chiefdom is located about 120km from Lusaka in a rural part of Central Province. It comprises 200 villages, with approximately 40 households in which nearly half are female headed and 60% of the population is under 16.  Crop and livestock agriculture constitutes the main economic activity in the Chiefdom.

Security of land tenure and gender equality are the foremost factors that undermine efforts to reduce poverty. Patriarchal norms, customs, and negative traditional practices are some of the drivers of gender inequality and unequal access to titled land between men and women. These are the main challenges in promoting economic empowerment of women. To this effect incidences of early marriages among the youths is high, especially for girls. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with other United Nations Agencies and financial support from Sweden, Ireland and DFID coordinated its programme interventions with Plan International, Global Land Network and National Legal Aid Clinic for Women to support community transformation in this Chiefdom.

The main focus of UNDP’s support was social transformation for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Elements included among others (i) capacity development of traditional authority and community leaders and securing their commitment to transform their communities (ii)change of individual attitudes (iii)change of community values, traditions, practices (iv)change of policies, legal frameworks and (v) empowerment of women for them to fully participate in national processes and contribute to the economic wellbeing of the country.

The central pillar of the interventions was individual change in attitude among traditional authority through campaigns and sensitisation programmes such as the HeForShe campaign. The traditional authorities’ role as members of a district councils was central. The House of Chiefs as a convener and as a platform for sharing best practices added legitimacy to the process as well as acting as a catalyst for change.

Civil society organisations such as Plan International, National Legal Aid Clinic were best suited for grassroots interventions.  The third set of interventions centered on traditional/civil authority interaction. This was essential in securing coherence between community by laws and the national legal framework. especially when considering the issuance of title deeds on customary land.

To this end community consultations and capacity development programmes included content on international human rights instruments such as the (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, (CEDAW); International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) Convention against Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (CAT); International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (IESCR) and national legislation. Training manuals to modernize customary and traditional courts were also prepared to facilitate coherence of traditional courts with provisions of the national legal framework and international/regional human rights instruments.

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