THE overall situation regarding women in Zambia could be described as quite similar to that relating to other developing countries both within Africa and beyond.
For many are still illiterate. The bulk of them remain unemployed, forsaken and largely alone laden with the onerous task of looking after their children wallowing in abject poverty.
Education, training and economic empowerment may give such women a new opportunity to gain access to the active participation in the national economic development agenda thereby help alleviate poverty.
Since time immemorial, women in the aforementioned lands have had it rather tough in grappling with life. Indeed, they have been greatly disadvantaged simply because of their gender.
Though they are women, it is just a natural circumstance right from the cradle to the grave. But should not be under-rated because they are a backbone to society and a powerful force to reckon with.
A plethora of governments in most developing countries have for a long time systematically or willfully cast aside the plight of the women folk relegating them to kitchen. The misconception, nonetheless, is fast eroding as far as Zambia is concerned more especially since the Patriotic Front (PF) under President Michael Sata romped home in the September 20, 2011 tripartite elections and formed the present government apparatus.
The PF government is currently trying to address the imbalance in order to uplift the living standards of the women populace and the entire nation at large bearing in mind that it has only been in power for only a year. More is yet to reach the masses as Rome was not built in a day.
It is just a matter of hard work and patience. But for the sake of generality, whether in Zambia or abroad, women have been an overlooked human resource force, largely ignored in their respective countries to effectively contribute to the advancement of their nations' economic development as well as their well-being.
Sadly enough, they have been left out in the cold to fend for themselves despite the hefty degree of the workload they render to their communities.
Agriculture, for most of them has become a last resort and would appear to be a case in point. As women in developing countries play a vital role in all sectors of economic development strategies, much of their potentialities often goes unrecognised, sometimes even for ever.
Virtually, more than eighty per cent of the rural food supply falls under the full responsibility of women such as cultivation, food transportation, harvesting, processing, preparation, storage including treatment of the stocks and finally, the sale of produce garnered annually.
Therefore, if given full access to development activities, designed to increase agricultural output like providing them with lessons from extension programmes and their involvement coupled with availability of financial credits without unnecessary complications, women would greatly assist their family members and communities in the war against starvation and poverty.
In addition to the back-breaking traditional, cultural work, women in both urban and rural areas also perform critical tasks such as distributing, marketing food supplies and other household goods.
Moreover, women do all sorts of chores that men cannot possibly handle diligently such as fetching and hauling water and firewood.
In the rural environment, women also look after herds fo cattle and other domesticated animals and birds like goats, pigs and guinea fowls, chickens and ducks respectively; as well as providing for the health and education of their children.
They are also responsible for a predominant portion of subsistence farming and village production. Over the years, experience has gradually proven that adequate assistance should reach women if they could resurrect themselves from the yoke of pauperism.
Pangs of hunger worldwide have driven so many people to get involved into various activities in order to sustain a living one way or another.
During the opening of the Forum for African Women Educationists (FAWE), Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Girls Conference and FAWE 2020 Campaign launch in Lusaka held last August, First Lady, Dr Christine Kaseba observed that women represented an untapped source of human capital which could be utilised for sustainable development and greatly contribute to poverty reduction.
"It is a known fact that women in Africa and in the SADC region particularly, represent an untapped source of human capital. With greater investment in girls' education, female participation and greater productivity in the labour market are assured," she said.
She added that female education was the bedrock on which issues such as climate change, poverty reduction, global financial crisis, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB), and malaria control could be confronted.
At the same function FAWE executive director (Africa), Oley Dibba - Wadda said significant progress had been recorded and most African countries were on track towards achieving Millenium Development Goal (MDG) on primary education.
She said gender equality and quality education could be achieved if among others, traditional practices that were discriminatory to girls were discouraged.
And FAWEZA national chairperson, Lillian Kapulu, said Zambia had been implementing an ambitious education programme anchored on four pillars; access, equity, efficiency and quality.
The PF Government is rapidly but gradually raising the quality of life for Zambian women and in actuality materialising their dreams and rights in the realm of politics, education, economics, culture, social affairs and family life.
While the government is geared to uplift the living standards of the majority women through its vision, it is also necessary for stakeholders including traditional leaders to come on board with more effective measures that would add value and eventually improve womens' general welfare.
But because of the glaring disparities such as lack of educational opportunities more especially among those in the remote areas, much has been tremendously reduced in the context of the social and economic options women have in developing countries. This also limits the magnitude of the potential social - economic returns on investment in education.
Lest it might be ignored, it is important to take note of the fact that the number of children, girls and boys alike enrolled in primary schools in developing nations Zambia inclusive, nonetheless, has markedly increased.
Yet all in all, it is again a woman who strives more to ensure that her children go to school.
Women are capable to stand on their own if afforded with sufficient funds to enable them venture into various skills that would generate reasonable incomes to help eradicate poverty.