Mrs Lungu was the keynote speaker at a side-event co-organised by FAO, IFAD, WFP, UN Women, the EU and the Permanent Mission of Slovak to the UN under the theme: “Step It Up Together with Rural Women to End Hunger and Poverty” on the first-day of the 61st Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, (CSW61) an annual meeting focusing on women and girl’s welfare worldwide, on Monday.
First Lady of Zambia Esther Lungu says ending poverty in Zambia and other developing countries will depend on the attention given to rural women, who are the primary agents of change in the fight against hunger and poverty in their communities. Mrs. Lungu said empowering rural women would lead to agricultural growth and poverty eradication.
“In the developing world, rural agriculture is the sustenance of the majority of people, in particular women. We all agree that extreme poverty manifests mostly in rural areas of developing countries where statistics indicate that on average, women comprise 43 percent of the agricultural labour force and contribute 70 percent of labour,” Mrs. Lungu said. “In Zambia, we are Stepping Up, but of course more needs to be done. The President of Zambia His Excellency Mr. Edgar Lungu has directed that the policy on allocating 50 per cent of state land to women must be enforced without fail.”
The First Lady explained that Zambia had a provision for individual women to be allocated land in line with the mechanisation programme for rural women in agriculture. To this end traditional leaders were required to provide a minimum of 100 hectares of land to women cooperatives.
Mrs. Lungu expressed concern that due to climate change, effects such as drought and flooding result in many women losing their crops, which is their sole source of income. “This forces them to seek employment from emergent and large scale farmers, where, they face risks that come with lifting heavy loads; harsh weather conditions and exposure to chemicals, to mention but a few. Rural women work long hours earning low, unstable incomes with little appreciation from employers,” said Mrs. Lungu. “I speak with passion and give firsthand testimony having had the opportunity to traverse the rural areas of Zambia, and I am sure I speak for many women in developing nations, who have for a long time been shackled with the chains of harsh conditions.”
She indicated that last year the Ministry of Gender distributed 51 tractors and 94 tillers to 100 chiefdoms out of the earmarked 288 in order to empower emergent woman farmers.
“As First Lady, advocacy continues to be top on my agenda. I am focusing on tackling social-cultural norms, attitudes and behaviours that need elimination or adjustment,” Mrs. Lungu said. “I have engaged the spouses of traditional leaders to be the “transformational champions” in addressing deep rooted cultural gender inequalities in rural areas.”
The Commission on the Status of Women opened on Monday the 20th March 2017 and closed on the 24th March 2017. at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Zambia has won international respect for its advocacy and implementation of policies and programmes that protect and promote the wellbeing of women and girls.