In Zambia, after the inauguration of President Hakainde Hichilema last month, more than a thousand people took to the streets of Lusaka to protest over violence against women, holding placards that read: “My clothes are not my consent”; “Speak your mind even if your voice shakes”; and “Don’t tell me how to dress, tell them not to rape”.
The march was led by women and was intended to remind the new administration that protecting the country’s women should be at the top of the agenda.
Zambia is not an easy place to be a woman. About 17% of women in Zambia have experienced sexual violence, according to consultancy firm Oxford Policy Management, and the country faces some of the highest rates of reported gender-based violence in the world.
“In Zambia we report 18 000 cases of sexual gender-based violence every year, meanwhile over 80% of SGBV [sexual and gender-based violence] cases go unreported,” said Ann Holland, the co-founder of the NGO, Sistah Sistah. Sistah Sistah organised the Lusaka protest.
“Our elected officials do nothing. Our systems don’t work, from our police, hospitals and courts. Zambia can boast about how peaceful it is, but it can’t hide the stench of rapists and the fear women live with,” said Holland.
The majority of protesters were young women.
In Zambia, where half the electorate is under the age of 40, this is especially significant, said Holland.
Having played a part in bringing Hichilema to power through the ballot box, this generation now wants to see the change they voted for, she said. This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here