Zambia: Rural women seek support on International Women’s Day (by Brian Moonga for Farm Radio Weekly in Zambia)

| March 7, 2011

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The booming economy in northwestern Zambia is helping more rural women venture into growing crops and rearing small livestock. Women know they can sell their produce to motorists and miners on the busy Solwezi-Mwinilunga highway. One of Africa’s largest copper mines is on this highway, near Lumwana.

A group of women formed the Kyawama Rural Women’s Club barely one year ago. The women all live a few kilometres from the highway. Club members are small-scale farmers who grow crops in their back yards. They sell their produce along the highway. The women formed the club to gain and share knowledge on farming and land rights, gender equality and many other matters that affect them.

Although still in its infancy, the 15-member club has managed to sensitize women in neighbouring villages on land rights and agriculture. Emelda Kaumba is the club’s founder. She says that this year’s International Women’s Day will motivate the group to help more women become aware of their rights, and sensitize them on household food security.

When asked what International Women’s Day means to the women in the group, Mrs. Kaumba says, “In the past we had no interest in learning how special days like the International Women’s Day could play a role in getting us organized. Now, for the sake of working together as a community, we want to commemorate this day by identifying potential partners that can help us strengthen our group.”

The Kyawama Women’s Club wants to network with pro-farmer NGOs. The club wants to learn basic skills in agriculture and sales. They also want advice on transforming the group into a small co-operative. According to Mrs. Kaumba, “As rural women, we are secluded also because of the long distance from provincial centres where most women’s organization is based. We hope that some women’s non-governmental organization will identify us as potential partners.” The club will participate in commemorations in Solwezi, a large town nearby. They will use this opportunity to pursue partnerships and support.

Women-led non-governmental organizations have mushroomed in Zambia. But they are based in urban areas. There is an outcry from rural areas which are cut off not only from the NGO network but from mass media as well.

Mrs. Kaumba explains why rural women need support: “Selling on the roadside is a game of chance. Most of the time, many of my colleagues here whose produce is displayed near the highway may not make a sale in two days.” When asked about her hopes for International Women’s Day, she says, “We hope we may explore methods of ensuring that we all gain from the market in transit. I sell a pineapple [for] 10 times less [than] the price it would cost, because most of us here lack information on finding new markets. I hope they will talk about that as well during the women’s day.”

Mrs. Kaumba says, “Women’s day should not only be for town dwellers; we need to move at the same level as [urban] women because we share a common challenge.”