LibLink: Lynne Featherstone in Zambia, part 2

Lib Dem international development minister Lynne Featherstone is currently on a trip to the southern African country of Zambia. Her first visit was to the capital, Lusaka, and to a UK-funded empowerment programme for adolescent girls.

Over to Lynne:

This programme is supporting more than 1,500 of the most vulnerable girls, providing safe spaces and mentoring to help build their confidence and life skills.

The girls I met told me they were learning about their rights as women. One 16 year old girl said she now felt more confident to say no to unwanted approaches from boys. Another said the girls now understood that if a spouse or boyfriend attacked his partner, she had the right to go to the police. This is a much-needed message in a country where 63% of women aged 15-24 report wife-beating to be justified under certain conditions.

Perhaps most inspiring are the girls’ hopes for the future. They are encouraged to dream big. When I asked the girls what they wanted to do in life, hands shot up around the room. The wanted to be doctors, lawyers, journalists, nurses, teachers – one even said President of Zambia, to much applause.

On her second day in the country Lynne then travelled to the Southern Province of the country to visit a number of programmes designed to improve, among other things, the health and education systems:

I wanted to meet those most directly impacted by these programmes and to hear their stories.

For example, Metiness Chandi, a disabled mother of three in Monze district, who now receives income support through the Government of Zambia’s social protection programme. Metiness has used this income to build hard-roof housing for her family, to buy chickens, and to send her children to school. Her life has changed from desperation to hopefulness.

60% of Zambians live on less than $1 a day. In rural Zambia, 57% live in extreme poverty and are unable to meet basic food needs. Through the social protection programme, 99,000 recipients (84% of them women) will be reached by 2015 – over 60% funded by UK aid.

* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.

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2 Comments

  • David James Portmore White 30th Nov '12 - 3:32pm

    Hello.

    It is very interesting to read of Ms Featherstone’s travels and experiences in my former home, Zambia. ‘One Zambia!!’ is what first and former President Kaunda used to say, when addressing a throng. ‘One Nation!!!’ was always the response from the crowd.

    I felt that KK was an OK president. However, he allowed himself to become surrounded by too many crooked sycophants. They supported KK when he declared a single-party government for a flourishing and popular nation. He also locked-up several potential rivals who disagreed with him – foremost among them was Simon Kapepwe.

    After the Yom Kippur War, the OPEC nations pushed the oil prices through the ceiling. That caused profound damage to the industries of the developed nations. In turn, the economy of Zambia was most adversely affected – no demand for copper and other minerals from a country with such high costs of exporting its natural assets.

    The people of Zambia became increasingly dissatisfied with KK. Corruption flourished. Kaunda was ‘sacked’.

    I suggest that subsequent presidents and governments have joined in with the corruption and graft of other governments in eastern, central and southern Africa, eagerly!

    When I lived in Zambia, during the early to mid-1970s, it was a ‘clean’ and thriving country. I felt proud to be there and to run, almost single-handed, 70% of the retail and 90% of the wholesale book trade.

    It appears, from Ms Featherstone’s communiques, that my former home nation is beginning to rediscover its long-vanished moral principles and social concerns and commitments. I hope, very much, that none of it is ‘smoke and mirrors’!

    Zambia was a wonderful country. It can be again – given the right energy and honesty of government and people, at all levels.

    On the ‘glass half empty’ side of things, I remember chatting over a couple of cold Castle beers, with two FAO guys, in the Ridgeway Hotel, in Lusaka, in 1973 (approx). They said that Zambia could not only feed itself but was capable feeding all of east and central Africa. Is Zambia doing so now, Lynne? No, I thought not. But why not!

    If you’re interested, just ask. I might be able to sugest a few reasons!

    Oh yes, after Zambia, I went to live in Kenya for a few years – book trade again, of course. It was there that I discovered what corruption really is – sometimes involving murder by the government, per its Special Branch.

    Oh, Ms Featherstone (et al), you learn a lot about places by living in them for a while!

  • nigel jones 1st Dec '12 - 11:30am

    I have relatives in Zambia, in Choma which is in the South of the country, originally of the Tonga tribe and I visited them 3 yrs ago. The people had previously been making many trips to Zimbabwe where some services, consumer goods and food were more plentiful. Now the situation is reversed in a sense, but Zambia still has a huge hill to climb, particularly in public services such as health and waste management. Their roads have improved due to Chinese involvement, but it remains to be seen if Zambians can afford to maintain these newly built roads, which quickly deteriorate into enormous potholes, causing lorries to break beyond repair and even causing deaths when cars ride into them.
    At the time of my visit, the government were embarking on a programme to increase food production due to the increase in prices internationally, but there are vast areas where agriculture is far behind what we have in Europe.
    So much to be done and it will depend on both help and advice from us together with greater determination by the people there for which they need encouragement. As we all know, this means greater democracy if they are to see economic growth benefitting all and not just the few.

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