The status of women in relation to fertility in Zambia during the period 1980-1999: the case of Lusaka
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Women in Zambia, just like in any other developing country, have for a long time, been marginalised in society. This is because social and cultural attitudes in traditional Zambian societies assigned women an inferior status in the social, economic and political life of our country. It took events such as the International Women's Year (1975) to help the Zambian government to recognise that women constitute an important resource in any meaningful development. Though, this was the case, Zambian women still face barriers in contributing to and benefiting from development. This study aimed at investigating the relationship that exists between the status of women and fertility in Zambia, with special reference to Lusaka Urban. This was achieved by, among other things, finding out the extent to which a woman's educational attainment influences the number of children that she has, finding out the relationship between a woman's age at first marriage and fertility and investigating if a woman's involvement in formal employment influences the number of children that she is likely to have. Six out of the fifty nine residential areas in Lusaka Urban were purposefully selected. These were Kabulonga and Rhodes Park (low density), Kamwala and Libala (Medium density); and Kalingalinga and Misisi (High density). The stratified random sampling method was used to get a sample of 360 and the simple random sampling method was used in selecting the respondents. This study has among other things revealed that women in Lusaka are discriminated against in their access to education and employment. The mean educational attainment for women is Grade nine whilst that for men is Grade twelve. The difference between the two means is statistically significant at 0.05 level ('t' value is 4.5 and probability level is 0.00). Only 32.8% of the women are in employment compared to 100% of the men. Due to the women's low access to Salaried employment, they have less income compared to men. The mean income for the former is ZMK 198,559.32 (US$75.35) whilst that for the latter is ZMK369,035.71 (US$140.05). This study has also revealed that the number of children wished for is higher among those with no school/Primary education (5.6) while those with Secondary education rank second (5.0) and those with Post Secondary education rank third (4.0). There is a weak inverse correlation (-0.34) between the number of children a woman in Lusaka wishes to have and her educational attainment. This is statistically significant at the 0.01 level. There is also a weak inverse relationship (-0.17) between the number of children a woman in Lusaka has and her age at first marriage. Though the relationship is weak when all the areas are considered, the situation varies from one residential area to another. In Kamwala, the relationship is strong and inverse (-0.72). It is statistically significant at the 0.05 level. In the rest of the areas, the relationship is either weak and inverse or strong and inverse, but not statistically significant. This study has also revealed that the average number of children that women in formal employment have (2.8) is less than that of those who are not in formal employment (3.7). Though this is the case, the difference is not statistically significant. The Zambian government had for a long time had no policy on gender. The nearest that the former ruling party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP), came to having one was when it included a chapter on Women and Development in the Fourth National Development Plan in 1989. The goals in this chapter just revolved around the notion of increasing women's participation in the development process. When the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MA/CD) came into power in 1991, it gave some initial promise of a more defined and radical gender policy in that its manifesto reveals that it recognizes the specific oppression that women in Zambia have continued to suffer from and therefore, will accord full and equal rights to women in all aspects of national life. In 1996, the MMD government, through the Gender in Development Division, formulated the National Gender Policy. This policy which has now been approved by cabinet* has, as its goals, the attainment of equality and equity in all aspects of life in the context of sustainable national development and redressing gender imbalances and disadvantages. It is in view of the above status quo that the following recommendations are made in this study, a.Government should establish a national machinery for women's advancement as government departments and ministries cannot easily implement a national gender policy. *Cabinet approved the National Gender Policy on 6th March, 2000. b.The mass media should also be used in a serious campaign targeted primarily at men in order to raise the nation's consciousness about the importance of women's role and their potential contribution to development. c.The government should substantially improve the implementation of the ongoing programs in the social sectors. Many of its stated policies are credible, but projects are implemented too slowly or not at all. d.All discriminatory laws and ordinances should be repealed. This will contribute to improving the status of all Zambian women. e.Future researchers should among other things, include information on other major allocative decisions families make, such as, children's schooling and the organisation of childcare. This is more especially useful when considering the relationship between work and fertility. f.There is also need for future researchers to make comparison between the distribution of the status of women in rural and urban areas. Mapping this distribution would be beneficial to planners, more especially, if the areas to be studies are many.