Zambian Anglicans ‘played vital role’ in fight against gender violence

By Bellah Zulu
Posted Mar 7, 2013

[Anglican Communion News Service] The government of the Republic of Zambia has praised the Anglican Church in Zambia for being a proactive leader in the fight against gender-based violence and especially has applauded women for choosing to speak out.

John Zulu, a director from the Ministry of Gender and Child Development, made the announcement during the International Women’s Day Sensitization Service held at the Holy Cross Cathedral in Lusaka, Zambia, on March 5.

Zulu was speaking on behalf of the minister of gender and child development, Inonge Wina. He said, “The government values and recognizes the participation of all stakeholders in the fight against gender-based violence and the [Anglican] Church, being a beacon of peace, has played a very vital role.”

He said the Zambian government is committed to providing a conducive policy environment where the “scourge” of gender-based violence would be dealt with effectively.

Speaking during the same occasion, the preacher of the day, Enala Banda, moved congregants when she spoke passionately against gender-based violence. Drawing from the Bible story of Tamar — a young woman who met violence in a place where she should have been safe — her home — Banda bemoaned the growing levels of gender-based violence in homes.

“Women have been taken advantage of because of not being as strong as men,” she said. “As women today, we are saddened by the lack of freedom that we suffer in our communities.”

Banda said she is saddened by the “culture of silence” being practiced in some homes where victims of abuse are warned not to talk about their experience. “We have too much incest and rape in our own homes,” she said. “The truth is ignored when the news of an abuse reaches us and victims are even held responsible for their misfortunes.”

The preacher warned of the devastating consequences suffered by victims of gender-based violence. “That abused girl will never be the same again and can never walk with her head high. Most people ignore the [long-lasting] aftermath of an abusive act,” she lamented.

She encouraged all women to “voice out our unhappiness on this special day” and reminded them to “evaluate [all] advice we receive by God’s standard,” even when it comes from people they trust in order to protect themselves.

Meanwhile, Monica Masonga, the Mothers’ Union president for the Diocese of Lusaka, emphasized that gender is not about women only and that men equally get affected. She said: “A lot of men have also suffered gender-based violence [but] most of them have just not come out in the open for fear of embarrassment.”

“Our socialization as Africans emphasized silence whenever something bad happens in the home,” she said. “Women are taught to be silent to maintain their marriage and fear to come out for fear of being laughed at by their neighbors and relatives.”

During the same event, outgoing Mothers’ Union president for the diocese, Fridah Sakala Kazembe, currently a trustee of the worldwide Mothers’ Union, urged all women to “adhere to the objectives of the Mothers’ Union in order to create safe havens for women and children in our families.”

“Our objectives as Mothers’ Union are towards getting families together and creating safe environments for our children,” she said. “If our objectives were strictly followed, we would not have broken families and consequently we would increase safety for our families.”

She also revealed that the Mothers’ Union in Zambia has embarked on an empowerment programs for women to help make them more independent. She added, “We have even acquired a piece of land to build a girls’ school in Zambia where our children can learn in a safe environment with Christian values.”

Commenting on the outcomes of the service, Grace Mazala Phiri, national director of projects for the Zambia Anglican Council (ZAC), said the idea of a sensitization service grew out of the preparatory workshop organized by ZAC for the Church of the Province of Central Africa to find out how best the church can utilize International Women’s Day.

She proclaimed: “This is a breakthrough! We [shall] be the only church or among the few that have taken such an initiative. The Anglican Church has taken the lead in advocating against gender-based violence .”

The service was attended by many clergy, including Robert Kaunda, Lusaka diocese vicar general, and the Rev. Canon Charley Thomas, dean of the cathedral. Congregants were treated to an assortment of songs in different languages and styles by choir groups drawn from various parishes within the diocese.