Africa, Development & Aid, Education, Headlines, Poverty & SDGs

Q&A: 'Move Beyond Goodwill To Action'

Kelvin Kachingwe interviews MARSHA MOYO, United Nations MDG advocate in Zambia

LUSAKA, Feb 13 2009 (IPS) - Efforts to free fiscal resources for social spending over the past few years have started to pay off in Zambia, where government is reporting a positive trend of poverty alleviation and social development. But progress is uneven.

Marsha Moyo - Women's empowerment in Zambia is self-generating.  Credit:

Marsha Moyo - Women's empowerment in Zambia is self-generating. Credit:

Poverty decreased from 72 percent in 2005 to 64 percent in 2008, according to the Central Statistic Office (CSO) Living and Monitoring survey, while the 2007 Demographic and Health survey results showed improvements in all of the country’s major health indicators, such as child mortality.

As a result, Zambians have experienced renewed optimism towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

However, United Nations MDG advocate Marsha Moyo, who represents 15 U.N. agencies in Zambia, including U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Development programme (UNDP), believes that despite progress achieved in certain cases, more needs to be done, especially in the areas of gender equality and sanitation.

IPS: You have been a United Nations MDG advocate for close to a year now. What are the challenges Zambia faces in meeting MDG targets? Marsha Moyo: The major challenge is the implementation and delivery of systems, products and services required to ensure MDG success. The eight goals have been established to consolidate and concentrate attention to the eight most critical aspects needed for a country’s sustainable development.

Hunger needs to be eradicated, every child has a right to education, women's rights and gender equality are integral, people need and deserve good health, access to clean water and sanitation and to be able to trade and generate income under equitable conditions.

IPS: A number of experts have commended the policy and planning efforts by government, the UN and co-operating partners in Zambia. But has enough been done to implement these plans and policies? MM: The UN is mandated to support government programmes. Hence, government spearheads an agenda, with the UN playing a supportive role. While we have made strides towards the achievement of the MDGs, we can only be 100 percent satisfied when the goals are met. Until then the implementation is insufficient and inadequate.

Another critical ingredient to success is the people, that is the masses. Be it through the masses impressing upon government to deliver on services or be it the people [doing their bit to] support government programmes, such as the 'Keep Zambia Clean' campaign.

IPS: In Zambian schools, recent grade seven examination results saw an impressive pass rate for girls, while boys did less well. Some Zambians have blamed this on an over-emphasis on support for girl-children and called it reverse discrimination. Do you agree? MM: Boys have not been discriminated or sidelined. The attention and support girls receive today is the same support boys have always received, which is why boys have delivered more and better in the past. The support has not been taken away from boys, but rather equal support has been given to girls, and the results are evident.

MDG 2 aims to ensure access to universal primary school education for all children, boys and girls, and the support afforded to girls is helping us deliver that result.

IPS: A recent cholera outbreak shows that Zambia is facing hurdles with regard to clean water and sanitation. Why have we failed to address this issue until now? MM: We must move beyond goodwill and start to act. The current drainage system, for example, is inadequate and insufficient for the current growth and size of the population. And the water reticulation system needs a major overhaul and upgrading.

IPS: One of the MDG targets is to have 50 percent of decision-making positions filled by women. Yet, Zambia has seen a reduction in the number of women cabinet ministers. Is this due to lack of commitment from government? MM: Government recently stated that it will only appoint women on merit and not merely based on a quota system. There are so many exceptionally qualified and deserving women. It is discouraging that our offices are not reflective of that. MDG 3 [women's empowerment and gender equality] and the quota system stipulated by SADC [Southern African Development Community] and the African Union were meant to bring attention to gender disparity at decision-making levels. Thus, it is premature to appoint women solely on merit when we are yet to satisfy stipulations to which we have appended our signature. Most excuses for not achieving the MDGs will be attributed to the current global financial crisis, yet it costs nothing to achieve MDG 3, just unprecedented action.

IPS: Does women's empowerment, for instance through the creation of income-generating opportunities, receive enough support from government? MM: Most of women's empowerment is self-generated. Consequently, women are creating opportunities for themselves and hardly ever rely on government.

IPS: The number of women who die of pregnancy-related causes has been reduced from 729 deaths per 100,000 live births to 449 deaths within the last five years. Impressive as this may be, the number is still high. Are we doing enough in this area? MM: Maternal mortality is the one MDG that has the widest disparity between developed countries and developing countries, with Ireland being the safest place in which to give birth and Niger being the worst. The reduction in maternal mortality in Zambia is impressive, but we need to continue with what has worked to further reduce these rates, rather than becoming complacent.

IPS: What role are you going to play to help Zambia achieve the MDGs? MM: My role is to continue raising awareness on everyone's involvement and participation in achieving the MDGs. Our success is for our collective and sustainable development.

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