During the time-period from the 7th to the 14th of June EPWDA conducted five focus group discussions in one of its last year’s districts (in the district of Chipata). The purpose of the discussions was to offer a follow-up how EPWDA’s current project (Advancing Women’s and Girls’ Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Eastern Province of Zambia) running now its second year has been implemented. The aim was to hear straight from the project’s male and female participants (perhaps the main beneficiaries) how effective they consider EPWDA’s work so far, mainly based on their evaluation of sensitisation workshops conducted by community facilitators, the local trainers of reproductive and sexual rights.
The questions presented in the discussions (by EPWDA’s programme officer) were according to project’s themes, involving mainly reproductive and sexual rights. The community facilitators were not allowed to attend the discussions.
In general, the feedback from the discussions was positive. The participants wanted EPWDA’s project to continue so that more people could be sensitised about their reproductive and sexual rights. Most participants described a positive change in their communities especially due to smaller family sizes that had improved living conditions, nutrition and education opportunities (particularly those of children).
The conversations brought up also some challenges that remain. For example community facilitators, nevertheless how great work they are doing, are way too few their number being approximately 3 per area. For example in the area of Katawa (one of the areas in the district of Chipata) there are 200 villages (310 persons in a village and 6-14 persons in an average household).
Also not all the participants of the conversations had been sensitised at all even though they had heard about the programme. Some described education received during the sensitisations inadequate and lacking practical viewpoints for example about a condom use. Here are some viewpoints presented by participants:
– “A woman was made from the rib of a man.” (Male)
– “If a man lies down during sex, penis gets bruises. A husband has to be on the top every time.” (Male)
– “She can’t refuse from having sex. When a man wants sex, it has to happen. A wife knows the sexual appetite of her husband and when ever he desires sex, it has to be offered.” (Male)
– “A woman’s right for refusal is when she has her period. That is when she can rest.” (Male)
It was also stated that labour is not equally balanced between the two sexes. Also an idea of male and female roles remains. Some examples from the conversations:
– “There is a man with three wives. The wives are doing all the hard work and the husband is just resting and expecting sex from them.” (Female)
– “Men can sweep floors but they can’t wash nappies.” (Female)
– “When a man starts cooking, a woman goes gossiping behind his back and he ends up to be the one being laughed at.” (Male)
“Traditional” and “modern” practices were also taken into consideration:
– “At the age of 25 (sometime ago the age was much lower, 11-13) girls are taken through an initiation ceremony, during which they are taught how to handle a man and have sex in a marriage. The ceremony makes girls curious and they want to practice what they have learnt.” (Female)
In the end of one particular conversation, I was also put out on a stage (when discussing about early marriages and a marital age in communities) as an example of a 28-year old woman with no children and husband. “This has to be the future of Africa”, EPWDA’s programme officer stated pointing at me.
None of the participants said no.