Norwegian Church Aid's partner, Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), train female traditional marriage counselors in gender equality and gender justice in Zambia.
The training, which was conducted under the NCA and EU co-funded Access to Gender Justice Project, brought together fifteen respected traditional marriage counselors from the Mawanda area in the Petauke District from the Eastern province of Zambia.
In Zambia, the traditional marriage counselors, locally known as ‘alangizi’, play a key role in preparing young women for marriage and their over-emphasis on “not washing dirty linen in public" by keeping bedroom affairs private has been attributed to the high number of Gender-based violence (GBV) cases in Zambia.
“We used to tell young women to just be quite and keep secrets inside their marriage, but this training has taught me that it’s important to have power and be well balanced in marriage,” said 55-year old marriage counselor Beatrice Mwale. “I think what will really help is education because it will make young women financially stable.”
Another marriage counselor, 67-year old Maliselina Mvula of Chinaka Village in Mawanda area explained the main source of conflict in marriage in her area:
“Usually men here have too much power and though a couple may farm together, men usually get all the money after selling the produce and spend it carelessly. The training has taught me that both men and women need to have equal power in marriage.”
Project Officer Rudo Mooba explained why it was key to train the traditional marriage counselors:
“The alangizi are custodians of Zambian traditional marriage and cultural values which they pass on to young women through marriage counseling, and usually whatever they say is regarded as gospel truth and whoever goes against them is frowned upon.
But this training helps them become more sensitive to teachings that promote gender inequality and consequently GBV in marriages.”
GBV continues to be a challenge in the Eastern part of Zambia, and the country as a whole, and that is why the project 'Canvassing Contours and Ridges: Towards Gender Justice in Zambia' seeks to increase access to justice for survivors of GBV in the Eastern and Western Provinces.
The project also seeks to raise awareness among traditional and religious communities about women’s rights, the Anti-GBV Act and other related laws, while trying to review and align customary law to the statutory law on GBV.
However, one of the main challenges has been the lack of coordination between various actors involved and in the delivery of justice and the project’s interventions.
This is about to change.
The project’s focal point person for Petauke and Assistant Community Development Officer, Margaret Nkhosi Mwanzahe says:
“There is improved coordination between key players in the judicial system including the police, the hospital and the judiciary. But there is need for more capacity building among traditional leaders and the local court justice system.”
The European Union Delegation in Zambia’s Programme Manager, Human Rights, Justice and Democracy and Communication Coordinator Patricia Pennetier, reiterated the EU’s commitment to supporting gender justice in Zambia:
“We are keen to support access to justice since it is one of our priority areas- but it is important that men are also involved in the fight against GBV.”
Published: Friday, June 30, 2017