Zambian Family Planning Advocates Pin Hopes on First Female Vice President
In late January, voters elected Edgar Lungu the new president of Zambia in one of the tightest races in the country’s recent history. Zambia’s special election followed the death of former President Michael Sata, and for family planning advocates, a lot was at stake.
Sata’s administration had made strong commitments to improving access to contraception and other reproductive health services and supplies. For example, the Integrated Family Planning Scale-Up Plan 2013-2020—the national blueprint for family planning—contains ambitious goals around increasing the use of modern contraceptive methods, reducing teenage pregnancy and decreasing maternal and child mortality. Last year, as a measure of that commitment, advocates convinced the government to create its first-ever budget-line for reproductive health supplies.
Lungu, of the Patriotic Front, will create his own legacy. Most exciting to advocates so far is his appointment of Inonge Wina to be Zambia’s first female vice president. The appointment demonstrates that Zambia is moving a step closer to having its first female president. The move is also in line with Zambia’s commitment to many international protocols to enhance gender equality by elevating women to key decision-making positions within government.
Wina, the former gender minister, is a community worker with a strong civil society background and a passion for women’s rights. In 1996, she was elected National Chairperson of the NGO Coordinating Council of Zambia (NGOCC). As president of the Young Women’s Christian Association, she was also instrumental in promoting a women’s rights agenda. Her efforts resulted in the Zambian government establishing the Victim Support Unit under the Zambia Police Service.
Advocates are hopeful that her experience in the NGO and development worlds will act as a pathway for enhanced consultation with her office. Yet, even with all of this, Zambian progress on reproductive health and rights does not rest solely on Wina’s shoulders. To ensure continued progress in the health sector, it is also important that Minister of Health, Dr. Joseph Kasonde (already confirmed), and his counterpart at the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, Dr. Joseph Katema, remain cabinet members.
While there is no predicting the future, the recent election provides family planning advocates with a springboard to keep building momentum. We are looking forward to working with the new president and his new vice president on the many issues facing Zambian women and youth.
Amos Mwale is the executive director of the Centre for Reproductive Health and Education in Zambia.