Yesterday, on the final day of my visit to Zambia, the Minister of Gender and I launched 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence in Zambia. This is a UN worldwide initiative, running from International Day of Eliminating Violence Against Women on 25 November to Human Rights Day on 10 December.
I shared with the audience some of our experience of tackling violence against women in the UK – still a huge challenge – and our determination to support vulnerable women across the world. This includes a new research and innovation fund to prevent and tackle violence against women and girls, announced yesterday in London (link to DFID page on the new research fund).
Some have described the 2000’s as a lost decade for women’s rights in Zambia. Zambia ranks 131 out of 146 countries in the Gender Inequality Index and 47% of women in Zambia have experienced gender-based violence. But I have been encouraged during my visit to learn of more recent progress – including a law against gender-based violence passed last year.
One influential woman determined to make a difference is the First Lady, Dr Christine Kaseba-Sata. She explained to me Zambia’s progress in implementing its commitments made at the Family Planning Summit (London, July 2012). Dr Kaseba-Sata, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in Zambia for more than 25 years, is also determined to tackle maternal mortality and cervical cancer – the most common cancer in Zambia. What a fantastic example of a woman using her expertise and position to make a difference for the most vulnerable in her country.
I finished my visit by meeting four impressive senior public servants tackling corruption in Zambia (including two women in the roles of Auditor General and Director General of the Anti-Corruption Commission). I urged them to continue their vital work to prosecute those who abuse their office and to help strengthen transparency in government.
It has been a privilege to visit this beautiful country and to meet those who are building a brighter future – from a newly-qualified Community Health Assistant to the First Lady, from the international exporters Zambia Sugar to local farmers, and from rural schoolteachers to the Ministers of Justice and Finance. And I have been delighted to see UK aid and diplomacy in action, supporting the poorest and urging more from those in power.