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Since 2007, Irish Aid has co-funded Habitat for Humanity’s Pamwesu project in the Lusaka and Ndola provinces in Zambia.

This project aims to promote equitable development and human rights amongst women, orphans and children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS in Zambia. In August 2016, thanks to Irish Aid, and your incredible support, a new 3-year phase of this project began.

Meet Astrida Mwila (pictured above). Astrida lives in the Twapia community in Zambia’s copper belt, and takes care of six children. The family have lived in their Habitat home since 2013, which was built as part of the Pamwesu Project. This home has provided Astrida and her family with solid foundations to build a brighter, more secure future.

During the course of this project, we are answering questions about the programme here on our blog.

This blog’s question is:

How does this project aim to empower women?

Why the Pamwesu project focuses on empowering women:

Land tenure is one of the great challenges Habitat for Humanity faces in helping families access decent housing. Countless families around the world lack rights to the land on which they live. While the lack of secure land rights affects a huge swath of people in the developing world — male and female, adult and child, across geographic regions — more women are affected than men. This inequality is often due to formal and informal systems that prefer male over female ownership, such as paternal inheritance systems, antiquated rules that allow only husbands to own land, or other social and customary practices. Over the recent years, women’s land rights have been identified as a primary driver for achieving income, health, and empowerment objectives [1]. This is why Habitat for Humanity Zambia aims to promote empowerment, equitable development and human rights amongst women through its Pamwesu project.

Gender Inequality in Zambia:

In Zambia, root causes of gender inequality stem from poor cultural values and norms, subsequently resulting in unequal relations of power in the household among others.

The limited implementation of existing women’s land rights in Zambia is extremely retrogressive. Land is considered the most fundamental resource to women’s living conditions, economic empowerment and, to some extent, their struggle for equity and equality within a patriarchal society. Without rights to land, women’s economic and physical security is compromised. They are deprived of a reliable source of food and are further curtailed access to other inputs, especially credit, necessary for carrying out productive activities.

Implementation of existing legal frameworks needs to be prioritised to ensure women’s rights become a reality, as women have now become more visible as household heads. Female heads of households are likely to carry out three times as much unpaid household, and care work, as men [2]. A majority of women have to carry out the lion’s share of cooking, cleaning, bathing children, taking care of older people or people with a disability in the home, part-time farming, fetching water and firewood or charcoal. Sustainable Development Goal 5’s Target 5.2: ‘Recognise and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate’ affirms why Habitat for Humanity Zambia’s Pamwesu project supports and aims to empower female-led households. Managing these activities on a daily basis leads to loss of valuable time, that could otherwise provide some financial freedom in their homes. Several female-headed households Habitat for Humanity Zambia has interacted with still face this challenge.

Due to the unequal relations of power, especially at household level, the challenge of violence against women is highly prevalent in Zambia, with estimates that nearly half of women have experienced violence in their life time (according to 2013-2014 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS)). The high rates of Gender Based Violence in Zambia have major implications for transmission of HIV, which disproportionately affect women and girls. According to UNAIDS, women who experience intimate partner violence have a 50% increased risk. The negative impact of customary law on the livelihoods of women and children is being brought into increasingly sharp focus by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This throws women into even deeper poverty on the death of their spouse due to dispossession by spouse’s family (MacMillan 2002: Mbaya and Ngaru). If women had a tighter grip of knowledge on their rights, the poverty gap may be closed more efficiently in Habitat for Humanity Zambia’s areas of operation.

How the Pamwesu project aims to empower women:

Habitat for Humanity has seen how impactful women are on the lives of their children and communities, and we have witnessed firsthand how ensuring secure property rights for women reverberates through communities to provide far reaching benefits. Secure land tenure for women improves their access to credit and investment in agricultural improvements; and stronger consideration of women in the process of titling will improve women participation in family, socio-economic and nutritional decisions, among others. This is why Habitat for Humanity Zambia’s Pamwesu project is so important. Since August 2016, implementation of the Irish Aid co-funded Pawmesu housing and rights project has seen a total of 30 houses completed, with another 30 due to be built by August 2019. Out of these 30, a total of 27 are female-headed homes. The households identified were nominated by their community leadership structures, as well as active community based organisations. In order for the female heads to be more assertive in handling and managing their households, training was provided in child protection, land rights, succession planning and will-writing, basic house maintenance and HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care.

The answer to this question was written by Habitat for Humanity Zambia, with edits by Habitat for Humanity Ireland.

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