By Bellah Zulu, ACNS
The Government of the Republic of Zambia has praised the Anglican Church in Zambia for being proactive leaders in the fight against gender-based violence and has especially applauded women for choosing to speak out.
A director from the Ministry of Gender and Child Development, John Zulu, made the announcement during the International Women’s Day Sensitization Service held at the Holy Cross Cathedral in Lusaka, Zambia, on March 5.
Mr. Zulu was speaking on behalf of the Minister of Gender and Child Development, Inonge Wina. He said, “The Government values and recognises the participation of all stakeholders in the fight against gender-based Violence and the [Anglican] Church, being a beacon of peace, has played a very vital role.”
He said the Zambian Government was committed to providing a conducive policy environment where the “scourge” of gender-based Violence would be effectively dealt with.
Speaking during the same occasion, the preacher of the day, Enala Banda, moved congregants when she passionately spoke against gender-based Violence. Drawing from the Bible story of Tamar--a young woman who met violence in a place where she should have been safe, her home--Mrs. Banda bemoaned the growing levels of gender-based Violence in homes.
She said: “Women have been taken advantage of because of not being as strong as men. As women today, we are saddened by the lack of freedom that we suffer in our communities.”
Mrs Banda was saddened by the “culture of silence” being practiced in some homes where victims of abuse are warned not to talk about their experience. “We have too much incest and rape in our own homes,” she said. “The truth is ignored when the news of an abuse reaches us and victims are even held responsible for their misfortunes.”
The preacher warned of the devastating consequences suffered by victims of gender-based Violence. “That abused girl will never be the same again and can never walk with her head high. Most people ignore the [long lasting] aftermath of an abusive act,” she lamented.
She encouraged all women to “voice out our unhappiness on this special day” and reminded them to “evaluate [all] advice we receive by God’s standard” even when it comes from people they trust in order to protect themselves.
Meanwhile, the Mother’s Union President for the Diocese of Lusaka, Monica Masonga emphasised that gender is not about women only and that men equally get affected. She said: “A lot of men have also suffered gender-based Violence [but] most of them have just not come out in the open for fear of embarrassment.”
“Our socialisation as Africans emphasised silence whenever something bad happens in the home,” she said. “Women are taught to be silent to maintain their marriage and fear to come out for fear of being laughed at by their neighbours and relatives.”
During the same event, outgoing Mother’s Union President for the Diocese Dr. Fridah Sakala Kazembe, currently a Trustee of the Worldwide Mother’s Union, urged all women to “adhere to the objectives of the Mother’s Union in order to create safe havens for women and children in our families.”
“Our objectives as Mother’s Union are towards getting families together and creating safe environments for our children," she said. "If our objectives were strictly followed, we would not have broken families and consequently we would increase safety for our families.”
She also revealed that the Mother’s Union in Zambia has embarked on an empowerment programmes for women to help make them more independent. She added, “We have even acquired a piece of land to build a girls school in Zambia where our children can learn in a safe environment with Christian values.”
Commenting on the outcomes of the service, National Director of Projects for the Zambia Anglican Council (ZAC), Grace Mazala Phiri said the idea of a sensitisation service grew out of the preparatory workshop organized by ZAC for the Church of the Province of Central Africa to find out how best the church can utilise International Women’s day.
She proclaimed: “This is a breakthrough! We [shall] be the only church or among the few that have taken such an initiative. The Anglican Church has taken the lead in advocating against gender-based Violence .”
The service was attended by many clergy including Lusaka Diocese Vicar General, Robert Kaunda and the Dean of the Cathedral, the Revd Canon Charley Thomas. Congregants were treated to an assortment of songs sung in different languages and styles by choir groups drawn from various parishes within the Diocese.