I am delighted to be here today on behalf of the UK government and its Department for International Development (DFID). It was only last week that I arrived in Zambia and presented my credentials to His Excellency President Lungu. But I was keen to join this event when I heard about it. I remember from my previous diplomatic posting to Zambia, ten years ago, that the Gender Based Violence is rife in Zambia as it is, sadly, in so many countries. Therefore, I am glad that the UK is joining Zambia in its efforts to eliminate gender based violence and child marriage. And I would like to thank the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Clerk for enabling this event to happen.
Here’s a very ugly and stark fact.
Globally if you are a woman aged between 15 and 45 years you are more likely to be maimed and die from male violence than from malaria, cancer, traffic accidents and war combined.
Such violence is used to intimidate, humiliate and discredit women and to force them into a silent, second-class citizenship.
The statistics on violence against women and girls are shocking. Globally 1 in 3 women is beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime.Usually, the abuser is a member of her own family or someone she knows. And up to half of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16.
In Zambia, almost half of women aged 15 to 49 years have experienced physical violence. Homes should be places of refuge and safety. For too many women in our societies, the UK included, our homes are places of hidden suffering.
I mention the UK because, tragically, this is a problem that seems to effect every country. In Britain between 1 and 1.3 million women suffer domestic violence each year, around 5%. This has been highlighted by a long-running BBC radio programme called “The Archers”, a soap about a rural farming community, which for the last 2 years has run a story line about a man abusing his wife – an insidious process as it begins gradually as emotional abuse as he criticizes her and undermines her confidence, before it turns more physically abusive. The programme has provoked an outpouring of disgust because this fiction is graphically illustrating what is really happening behind the scenes in all too many homes.
So what is the situation like in Zambia?
It is very serious. According to the Zambian Police Report for the third quarter of 2015, a total of 4951 GBV cases were reported country-wide in those 3 months alone. There were 1635 assaults and two-thirds of these were on women. That means around 340 assaults per month on average or 340 cases of beaten women each month. There were 688 cases of child defilement, all girls, around 230 per month or 76 per week. That’s 76 Zambian girls being attacked and defiled every week of the year, week after week. And we can be certain that these cases, reported to the Police, are only the tip of the ice-berg and that a lot more girls and women are being abused.
Let me give you an example. Take the case of a girl whom we will call Josephine, who lives in a rural district. Josephine is an orphan whose parents died when she was very young so that she lives with her grandmother. Josephine was abused and raped when she was a child. The man absconded. Josephine became pregnant and faced considerable stigma from her peers at school to the extent that she considered dropping out. But, supported by her grandparents, she started to receive help through the STOP GBV Project, a programme funded by USAID and DFID, attending a projects community dialogue on GBV at a nearby Rural Health Clinic, and receiving counseling from a community activist. On 26th March 2015 Josephine gave birth to a baby girl. But she is continuing to attend school. Later in the year she passed all eight subjects that she was taking in her Grade 7 final exams, scoring 695 points out of 900.
None of us here today should want gender based violence to remain hidden. So Zambian and international partners are committed together to supporting the victims of gender based violence and turning them into survivors. And we are committed to stopping gender based violence in the first place. This is why creating the right enabling environment is so important.
In recent years Zambia has demonstrated its strong commitment to addressing gender inequalities in the country. The UK Government is particularly delighted that Zambia has taken a strong lead in the fight against gender based violence with the implementation of the Anti GBV Act, its leadership on child marriage, which is a form of GBV as well as support to the drafting of a Marriage Bill which will make it illegal for children to marry. Zambia is indeed to be congratulated in being the first African country to establish Fast Track Courts for GBV cases.
However, there is still more that must be done:
we need to protect survivors of GBV and to this end, Zambia urgently needs to fulfill its commitments to increasing the number of shelters and safe houses available.
we need to learn early lessons from the establishment of the Fast Track Courts and ensure that these courts are more widely available to survivors across the country
all stakeholders involved (government, civil society and CPs) need to strengthen efforts for greater coordination around GBV
we need to work better together in order to maximize efforts and increase access to services for GBV survivors
finally, we need to challenge attitudes and practices which which have stopped too many girls and women having a voice and control over their own lives
As the USAID Mission Director pointed out, your role as MPs is critical in trying to effectively grapple with these important issues. We stand ready to support you and our partners in your efforts.
I should like to finish with the words of Josephine, the girl I mentioned earlier.
I am thankful for the STOP GBV project as it helped me stay in school and complete my primary education. And now I can dream of completing my education and becoming a doctor.