Women Empowerment

RFDP Zambia Promotes women empowerment in the areas of Gender equality, Women participation in local governance and decision making, Access to justice for Women and human rights promotion and Workforce development for Women in rural settings of Zambia




Gender Equality, Women participation in local governance and Decision-making Programme.

In many African countries, including Zambia, women are considered to have low decision-making power in their households. The overall development of women’s empowerment depends on women’s ability to make decisions that affect their personal welfare.

The 2018 ZDHS collected information from currently married women on their participation in decisions about their own health care, daily household purchases, major household purchases, and visits to their family and relatives. Overall, 57% of currently married women age 15-49 make decisions either alone or jointly with their husband in all four specified areas. Women were most likely to report making decisions on daily household purchases (86%) and decisions concerning their own health care (81%). Seventy-seven percent of women indicated that they participated in making decisions about visiting their family or relatives, while 68% made decisions on major household purchases. Among currently married men age 15- 49, 82% made decisions regarding their own health care and 87% made decisions concerning major household purchases. These findings show that while men and women have similar decision-making power in certain respects, women lag behind in terms of having control over making major household purchases.



By signing the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) Zambia recognises that the equality of opportunity and treatment for women and men will not be achieved unless women rights are known enshrined in law and properly enforced. In addition, the Convention agrees that education is needed to change harmful discriminatory practices.

According to RFDP Zambia project reports and through past experience, in the implementation of the Women  Participation in Local Governance and Decision making project (WRPGD), women participation in local governance and decision making has been low in Zambia, the ZDHS 2018, report also  shows  that while men and women have similar decision-making power in certain respects, women lag behind in terms of having control over making major household purchases and decision making in major areas.

In order to promote Women participation in Local governance and decision making , RFDP is implementing the following interventions.

Formation of Village Women Networks (VWN),

Women’s rights groups and networks are powerful levers of political change. They provide girls and women with platforms so they can elevate their voices and accessible avenues for political representation and participation.  VWNs increase gender awareness and participation of women in local governance and decision making and ensure women realise their rights in the local community.  Six Village Women Networks have been formed in Lundazi and Lumezi Districts and are currently sensitisation their fellow women in Gender Awareness, Participation in decision making and promotion of Women’s rights.


Capacity Development of Traditional leaders (Gate Keepers)

Training of traditional leaders (chiefs, Indunas, group Heads and Village Heads) in local governance, decision making, policy formulation and analysis, to formulate the local supportive policy and legal framework for promotion of gender equality, decision making and local governance at community level.

Create Training and Leadership Pathways for Girls and Women that Are Gender Sensitive

Encouraging continuous participation and civic education of girls and women in the community and civil society spaces can be important to their future local governance and decision-making participation.  Civic education taught to girls in school from a young age helps them understand the workings of democracy and their country’s governance system. It also equips them with necessary knowledge and skills to become active citizens and engage with the development and governance issues of their time. Trainings targeted to girls and women that help them acquire the foundational skills for local governance participation, such as lobby and advocacy, problem-solving, assertive communication, and negotiation capabilities, along with opportunities to engage in decision-making processes at the community, family and school levels, are all critical pathways to women empowerment.

Foster Inclusivity in Leadership, Civic Engagement, and Decision-Making in Public and Private Spheres

Addressing the needs of girls and women is challenging without the representation of their interests in top decision-making positions. Evidence shows that an increase in the participation of women in local governance affects how their needs are prioritized in policymaking. For example, in some Scandinavian countries, where women are well represented in positions of power, public budgets and policies more appropriately reflect the interests of girls and women. This same principle holds true for institutions of global governance, where there is a distinct gender imbalance. One such example where girls and women are increasingly asserting their rights is around climate justice. When it comes to tackling the effects of climate change and natural disasters, girls and women are integral to progress and must be included in decision-making and mitigation leadership. Young female activists from around the world have been leaders in the movement to combat climate change—organizing protests, rallies, strikes, sit-ins, and lawsuits to fight for political and social change. Women’s participation in local governance is also essential to inform policy and deliver change.

Women’s engagement in leadership positions at the grassroots level has been shown to have positive correlations to a higher quality of education, health, and infrastructure projects, as well as a boost to women’s empowerment and standards of living.

Another way to boost women’s decision-making power is to propel more women into leadership positions in the economy. Gender equality in employment gives women more decision-making power and enhances family wellbeing. Women will typically invest more of their income in the health, nutrition and education of their children than men.  In the private sector, gaps in leadership styles between men and women are common, making it harder for women to attain management positions. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that women are equally represented in leadership positions in a variety of businesses, workplaces, Community Committees, and other social movements, and that women’s rights issues are prioritized in collective bargaining processes. Quotas also serve as valuable transitional tools to increase women’s representation in male-dominated work and leadership environments.

Promoting Recognition of Women in Decision-Making Capacities as a Human Right

Advancing the rights of women to serve in positions of leadership and actively participate in decision-making processes can be achieved in part through their enhanced visibility. By publicly recognizing their contributions and protecting their rights by implementing international agreements such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the capacities of girls and women are more broadly accepted, thus dispelling negative gender stereotypes.

Access to justice is integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and inclusive growth. An estimated four billion people around the world live outside the protection of the law, mostly because they are poor or marginalized within their societies. They can be easily cheated by employers, driven from their land, preyed upon by the powerful and intimidated by violence. The lack of legal accountability allows local corruption to undermine economies, diverting resources from where they are needed the most.

Lengthy delays in processing legal cases inhibit individual economic activity, while the inability to enforce contracts deters people from entering into them. Overcrowded prisons are full of poor people waiting months or even years for a first trial, forced to give up work opportunities and unable to support their families. Women, who often face multiple forms of discrimination, violence and sexual harassment, are particularly affected by legal exclusion. Addressing these legal challenges is essential to enable the basic protection of human rights, from protection of property to legal identity and freedom from violence.

Zambia like many other countries, women access to justice and realization of human rights is low.  Matibini’s findings showed that awareness levels about the availability of formal justice mechanisms are quite low among the poor and women and concluded that if there is low level of awareness of the mechanisms of justice available and low rights awareness among the members of general public, then the right to justice is as good as denied (P. Matibini, Access to Justice and the Rule of Law, 2008).


What RFDP Zambia is doing to promote access to justice for Women and Vulnerable Populations

Promoting Legal Empowerment

Legal empowerment is designed to give people the power to know and use the law, and is one of the most effective and responsive methods for achieving access to justice. Legally empowered, even poor and marginalized people are able to make the law work in their own interests, achieving meaningful solutions to concrete injustices. It emphasizes a people centric approach to justice by highlighting the priorities of individuals and communities in using the law to advance and protect their interests. Often this involves a combination of lawyers and paralegals, formal and informal justice systems.

  1. Provision of Legal education to the vulnerable women and men: RFDP Zambia has been providing interventions which include basic legal awareness-raising, or “legal literacy” work to educate the public about legal rights and obligations, institutional structures of the legal system in Zambia, and specific mechanisms that marginalized groups can use to advance their interests. This included print, broadcast through radio, informational flyers, pamphlets and posters community public awareness outreach programmes, coupled with dramatic performances.
  2. Training of traditional leaders on Access to Justice.

Cultural; religious and traditional practices discriminate against women and inhibit their access to either formal or informal justice mechanisms. Access to justice and promoting the realization of human rights for women and other vulnerable groups requires that deeply held traditions, culture and attitudes are challenged. In order to do this, RFDP’s Access to Justice Project trained traditional leaders in Zambian Laws, Human rights, formal and informal justice systems in Zambia and gender-based violence. This is to build the capacity of the chiefs and the indunas as gate keepers to promote access to justice and realization of human rights for women.

  1. Training of Community Based Paralegals and Communities on Access to Justice

In order to provide legal Aid, Legal representation and legal information to women, RFDP Zambia trained 60 Paralegals in Lundazi and Lumezi districts in Zambia, focusing on Zambian Laws, paralegalism, legal Aid provision, Human rights, justice systems in Zambia and gender-based violence. The Paralegals focus on providing legal guidance to women on access to both traditional and local courts, provision of various forms of basic legal education, Legal advice, and legal representation. Paralegals have the potential to reach large numbers of people and offer basic legal education, both formal and informal, in ways that can be easily understood.

The focus of the paralegals is also on resolving legal problems and administrative challenges that are faced by marginalized groups. Interventions are community-driven and provide both formal and informal legal services, including mediation. Paralegals are a key mechanism for implementation at this level, as they are able to address informal/formal divides, understand local context, are cost-effective and responsive to local community needs.

  1. Establishment of Paralegal Information centres

RFDP Zambia through the Access to Justice project formed 4 paralegal information centres in Lundazi and Lumezi district. The major aim of the information centres are to be the focal point for legal issues within their communities, provide information on human rights and access to justice, and provide referral to formal legal, justice delivery institutions such as Local and Subordinate courts, Police Victim Support Unit etc.. information centres offer a significant opportunity to access remote and rural localities where the poor are severely limited in their access to justice.

  1. Provision of Support to Community Based Paralegals and Paralegal Information centres


RFDP Zambia provide support to the Paralegals such as bicycles, furniture (tables, chairs, and benches),

 and stationery to carry out community mobilization interventions effectively and efficiently. In 2015, RFDP Zambia procured and distributed 60 bicycles to all the paralegals that were trained and are offering free low-cost legal advice to the community members. The bicycles were distributed at a colorful ceremony attended by Mr. Charles Dinda from Danish Institute of Human rights - Lusaka, Lundazi Police Victim Support Unit, Local Radio station (Radio Chikaya), RFDP board members and staff and many other stakeholders in Lundazi district.

Workforce Development for Women

Increasing the number of working women can offer significant social and economic benefits globally, but political and social norms, as well as actual laws, keep women out of the workforce in many developing countries. Research indicates that access to education, finance, and enterprises can help increase their independence and participation in the labour force. Additionally, female managers could improve firm productivity.

In Zambia like many other developing countries face cultural and social norms which prevent women from realizing their full economic potential, and safety concerns which restrict their physical and economic mobility. Additionally, gender inequities and the lack of enabling conditions in the workplace make it more difficult for women to actively participate in the labour market.

RFDP Zambia has discovered that skills training and access to finance can encourage girls and women to feel more independent and pursue employment and business opportunities. Additionally, means of transportation that reduce mobility barriers can empower girls and women to continue their education and participate in the labour force. Evidence from our Local Governance and Women participation in decision making project also suggests that removing key challenges that prevent women from being promoted to managerial positions and participating in several leadership position could improve productivity in the Country.

What RFDP Zambia is doing;

Provide Soft skills Capacity Development Training to Girls and Women.

Soft Skills Capacity Development will improve girls’ and women’s educational and health outcomes. Soft and financial capability skills (i.e., savings, money management, communication, negotiation, critical thinking, decision making, and interpersonal relationships), to girls are perceived positively by participants and may increase their sense of control over their lives and access to resources.

Improving access to financial Services:

Access to financial Services increases female participation in the labour market in the long run. Greater access to microfinance loans lead to a significant increase in female labour force participation – with the effect driven by self-employment and not by salaried jobs. However, women who are financially included are more likely to have a word regarding household spending, They are able to take part in decision making regarding

Increasing women’s mobility 

Increasing women mobility encourages women to continue their education and participate in the labour force.


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