BRIDGE Report 29: Gender Profile of Zambia

Author: B. Byrne
Publisher: Institute of Development Studies UK
Publication Date: Nov 1994
What is the present state of gender relations in Zambia' Has economic recession and adjustment impacted differently on women and men' Like many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia has adopted structural adjustment and liberalisation measures in order to pull itself out of severe economic recession. This report argues that so far, economic changes have done little to close gender gaps and enhance women's position in society and the economy. Rather economic changes have tended to benefit women less than men, and increase their burden of work. Women are still excluded from agricultural export markets, lack mobility, lack access to credit and labour, and remain disadvantaged in education and customary law. While the new government in 1992 established Women's Affairs desks in all ministries, there is a general feeling that commitment to addressing gender inequalities remains low. However, a wide range of international donors have been seeking to put gender issues onto the government agenda, and improve the position of and opportunities for Zambian women.

The introduction of structural adjustment has lead to cuts in social sector expenditure and declining real incomes, with poverty levels remaining high, especially in rural areas. Economic crisis, drought and deteriorating service delivery has also lead to intensified health problems, with HIV/AIDS rates at high levels. These factors have hit women particularly hard and the following barriers prevent the closing of persistent gender gaps: . Despite constitutional equality, customary law (based on custom) which treats women as dependants, and awards them limited independent property and inheritance rights, still largely determines women's rights. . While women perform a much larger proportion of agricultural tasks than men, men remain predominantly in control of cash crop production. Women's independent agricultural production is constrained by lack of access to land, credit, technology information and labour. . Benefits of agricultural liberalisation and price rises have accrued mainly to large-scale commercial farmers, the vast majority of which are men. . Women's access to credit is constrained by their lack of assets for collateral, time and means to visit lending institutions, and socio-cultural attitudes which confine women to the home and traditional roles. . Urban women are heavily represented in informal sector activities, which are characterised by low capital, low profits and high competition. Women entrepreneurs are restricted by lack of credit and market knowledge. . Gender gaps remain in education. Factors such as deterioration of education delivery, introduction of user fees and increasing economic strain, have negatively impacted on girls' enrolment and attendance. . Women have been affected by intensified health problems, not only as sufferers but also in their role as the main carers for the sick. . There is a high proportion of female-headed households (one third to one half in some areas) who face particular constraints as producers and are over- represented amongst the poor. A range of donor interventions are aiming to address gender inequalities in Zambia, including: . Improvement of women's food production abilities, through support for small-scale income generating projects and skills training (Oxfam) and improving women's access to food processing technologies (UNDP). . Support to Women's Clubs and organisations for functional literacy, health and vocational training (Netherlands; GTZ, Germany; Danida; SIDA). . Improvement of women's access to water and sanitation (EC; NORAD). . Organisation of co-operative pre-schools for female marketers (NORAD). . Expanding women's access to agricultural services, such as credit, marketing and distribution (EC;UNDP; NORAD; USAID). . Assessment of gender mainstreaming for future projects, and attempts to promote involvement of women in decision-making (EC; Oxfam).