Rising Cost of Living “severely” affecting Zambian Women, Children: Jesuit Scholars

Prices of food items have increased in Zambia. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Officials of the Zambia-based Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) have said the continuous rise in the country’s cost of living is gravely affecting women and children.

In a statement released on the annual event of the International Women’s Day (IWD), Tuesday, March 8, officials of the research institute say the socioeconomic status of women in the Southern African nation also remains wanting.

“Today, at the backdrop of an incessant increase in the cost of living, women and young girls remain severely affected,” they say in their message for IWD. 

In their statement that also outlines the cost of living for February 2022, JCTR officials say there has been “a sustained upward price movement in the prices of essential items.”

The Jesuit scholars say the rise in essential food and non-food items has been influenced by the instability in fuel pump prices, the ban placed on the importation of onions and potatoes, and the  fact that the first quarter of the year is a lean season in Zambia.


JCTR officials say women in the Southern African nation are grappling with getting employment opportunities, adding that men dominate the formal and informal sectors in the country.

They say that in the formal sector, over 67.8% of the employees are male while their female counterparts account for 32.3%. 

Similarly, officials of the Jesuit institute say men are the most dominant in the informal sector with 60.2% while women come at 39.8%.

Apart from securing employment, officials of the Jesuit Institute say women are struggling to have good working conditions such as living wage and adequate social protection benefits, which are “critical shock absorber(s) especially to rises in the cost of living.”

In the statement titled, “High Cost of Living Exposing the Vulnerability of Women and Children”, JCTR officials further say the socio economic status of women in the country “remains vulnerable … as a number of indicators remain way below desired targets.”

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They highlight maternal mortality, gender-based violence and inequalities in the political arena as some of the challenges women experience.

They say, “Maternal mortality in 2017-2019 stood at a high of 252 deaths per 100,000 live births, an increase from 111 deaths in 2015-2016; women also bear the larger burden of gender-based violence and notable inequalities on the political participation landscape.” 

JCTR officials further say that after the 2021 general elections, the gap between men and women in politics has widened. 

They say the proportion of female lawmakers has reduced to 14% from the previous 19 percent recorded in the 2016 general elections. 

“Of serious concern is the retrogression in promoting gender equality and equity witnessed in the overhauling of the Ministry of Gender in 2021 and the slow reconstruction and operationalization of the gender machinery in Zambia,” they say.


They add that the reality “has culminated in little or no ministerial representation of gender at the cabinet level and inadequate institutional framework for promoting gender equality and guaranteeing sustainable development and economic growth.”

As much as Zambia desires economic growth, JCTR officials say, “the plight of women and children must not be undermined.”  

To address the challenges, officials of the Jesuit research institute call on the government to re-establish the Ministry of Gender or ensure a ministerial representation of gender at the cabinet level. 

“It is a moral imperative and social justice concern for the government to address the plight of women and young girls in order to attain sustainable development,” they say. 

JCTR officials further urge the Zambian government to “prioritize and speed up the transformation of the agriculture sector from a net importer to a regional supplier of various commodities.”

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“Agriculture is a sector on which a majority of women depend. The sector has however been unable to support the nation’s poverty eradication agenda as it remains rudimentary,” JCTR officials say.

“Government through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to actualize earmarked support to women empowerment through the Constituency Development Fund. Government through the Teaching Service Commission to ensure gender responsiveness in the planned teacher and health professionals’ recruitment,” they say in their March 8 statement.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.