Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. David Young at Zambia’s Commemoration of International Women’s Day

Remarks by U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires David Young
during the
Government of the Republic of Zambia’s Commemoration
of International Women’s Day
Monday, March 9, 2020
Showgrounds, Lusaka

Good morning!

On behalf of the U.S. government, it is my pleasure and honor to join you in celebration of International Women’s Day under this year’s theme, “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.”

This is my first public event since returning to Zambia, and as a husband, father of a daughter and a son, and an enthusiastic advocate for the equality of women and girls, I cannot think of a better way to begin my service as Acting Chief of Mission in Zambia.

I had the honor of serving in Zambia as the Chargé d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission from 2013 to 2016 and I have wonderful memories of my time here.  Mr. President, it is a pleasure to see you again.  Since leaving Zambia I have served as Chargé and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Missions in Abuja and Pretoria.  Now no disrespect to my good friends in both Nigeria and South Africa, but this past week it feels like I have come back to my African home.  This is a special country, and my wife Diane and I and our children have a special place in our hearts for our beloved Zambia.

During each of my assignments helping lead Embassies on the African continent, and throughout my 30 years as a U.S. diplomat, it has been my privilege to promote America’s shared values with our host nations.

Those shared values include the rights of women and human dignity for all people, a value that we celebrate together today as we commemorate International Women’s Day.

Zambia has a history of strong, empowered women including the current Vice President, the Honorable Inonge Wina; Senior Chieftainess Nkomeshya; the late freedom fighter Mama Chibesa Kankasa; and Chief Justice Irene Mambilima, to name just a few.

These are impressive women, and they inspire us to take impressive action toward women’s equality, not just in Zambia but around the world.  To quote Nadia Murad, the winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, “We must not only imagine a better future for women … we must work consistently to make it happen.”

And as USAID Administrator Mark Green observes, “[W]hen women do better, countries do better, communities do better, and families do better.”

At its most basic level, we are here today because of the women and girls of Zambia and the United States.  We are here today because of Hope, a young woman from rural Zambia, who, after being pressured into marriage as a child of just fourteen, found the courage to leave an abusive situation, to find medical treatment and a support network, and go back to school.  Hope is now on track to become a nurse.

We are here because of Marley from Pennsylvania in the United States, who noticed that all her mandatory readings in school were books about boys and dogs.  Marley decided to start a book drive called 1000BlackGirlBooks.  Marley ended up raising money for more than 9,000 books for her community.

All of us, as women and men, have a sacred responsibility – we must build a better future for young women and girls like Hope and Marley.

According to global data, the last few decades have been marked by progress for women worldwide.  Girls spend more time in school, child marriages have decreased, fewer mothers are dying in childbirth, female literacy has gone up, women are living longer, and more women are in leadership.

But despite these achievements, much more needs to be done.  In partnership with the Government of the Republic of Zambia, the United States government remains steadfast as we work together promoting the rights of women and the girl child.

At its core, the mission of the United States Embassy here in Zambia comes down to two central things: Working together, We Save Lives, and We Change Lives for the Better.

There is no greater demonstration of this commitment than the program we sponsor called the DREAMS Initiative.

DREAMS stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe.  It is a global, public/private partnership that seeks to reduce new HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women, ages 10-24.

Since 2015, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United States has invested nearly $50 million to support DREAMS in Zambia alone. In five years, DREAMS Zambia has reached over 460,000 girls and young women.

DREAMS services include mentor-led safe spaces, care and support for survivors of gender-based violence, testing and counseling for HIV, school scholarships, and more.  In addition, DREAMS works with sexual partners, parents, schools, and communities to strengthen the supportive networks necessary for young women to thrive.

For all of these to reach their full potential, we must continue to work tirelessly to support maternal and child health, education and early literacy, equality, and we must work together to fight gender-based violence (GBV) that can compromise, and even halt, all our progress.

Violence against girls and women remains one of the most widespread, persistent human rights violations in our world today.

Not only does GBV permanently harm the physical and emotional health of the survivor, it drives new HIV infections, leads to poor educational and economic outcomes, and perpetuates the cycle of poverty.  GBV is a global problem that affects one in three women in their lifetime.  Women who suffer gender-based violence are our mothers, daughters, sisters and other relatives. They are our family; they are us.

This week I was reminded how challenging the fight against GBV is.   Because it starts with changing attitudes – for everyone, women and men, girls and boys.  Perhaps you saw the shocking story a few days ago in the Zambia Daily Mail.

The article said that according to Zambia’s 2018 Demographic Health Survey, 46 percent of Zambian women believe it is acceptable for a husband to beat his wife.  According to the survey, “justified” reasons could be because she “burned food, argued with her husband, went out without permission, neglected children, refused intimate relations, or made household purchases without the husband’s knowledge.”

Wow.  Reading this, I was stunned.  Think for a moment what this means.  Some young girls grow up thinking that gender-based violence is ok.  Clearly we all have a lot of work to do.  We need to do better for Hope and Marley.

As a husband and a father, I cannot imagine what a horrific thing it would be to beat my wife or my child.  All of us — as individuals, political leaders, religious leaders, traditional leaders, civil society – have to join in the fight to make gender-based violence unacceptable in everyone’s eyes.

As fellow democracies committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights covenants, the United States and Zambia stand shoulder to shoulder in fighting against GBV.  USAID’s $17-million Stop-GBV program is one example.  This project works with government, traditional and religious leaders, and communities to strengthen GBV-response services, and supports laws and policies that ensure protection for survivors and prosecution for perpetrators.

Together with the Zambian Government, we have established 24 fully operational One-Stop Centers in 7 provinces and 25 districts for comprehensive GBV response and care.  We have trained magistrates, police officers, and doctors to improve access to justice for child survivors, and we have trained close to 100 chiefs and 340 headmen, induna, and traditional leaders to identify and respond to GBV in their own communities.

Together, we are saving and improving the lives of Zambia’s women.  As we take time today to reflect on the progress made and the long road to gender equality, allow me to reaffirm the U.S. government’s strong commitment to Zambia and to improving the lives of all its people.

So today, as we commemorate International Women’s Day, let us all remember Hope and Marley.  We work for them.  We must keep faith with them.  Because they are our daughters — and our future leaders.

Your Excellency, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, distinguished guests, and importantly, Zambia’s women and girls: Thank you for all you do to make a better future for all the women and girls of our world.