Despite stable growth, rural poverty in Zambia has risen and most women work in low productivity, low wage jobs. Between 2010 and 2015, the national poverty rate fell from 60% to 58%, but rural poverty rose from 72% to 75%. Moreover, 80% of the population works in informal jobs, including 59% in agriculture, where earnings are less than one-third for the average wage worker. Women, in particular, struggle in their daily lives, earning about 20% less than men.
The Government of Zambia recognizes that fighting the dual challenges of poverty and gender inequality is essential to the achievement of inclusive growth. There are numerous constraints to girls’ and women’s empowerment and well-being. Compared to males, Zambian females are more likely to leave school during adolescence and are more likely to farm at subsistence levels, both of which are strongly correlated with low earnings. Changing this reality would have a transformative impact on not only girls and women but also on their families, and on Zambia’s efforts to build human capital and boost long-term economic growth.
The Girls’ Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihoods (GEWEL) Project targets women at two key critical points in their lives, successfully transitioning from:
- Primary to secondary school through Keeping Girls in School (KGS) bursaries that can delay early marriage and pregnancy and help prepare girls to pursue productive jobs; and
- Subsistence to sustainable livelihoods through the Supporting Women’s Livelihoods (SWL) comprehensive approach of skills training, grants, savings support and mentorship to help women turn piecemeal work into viable microenterprises.
In the first year of implementation, GEWEL exceeded its targets, reaching 21,252 extremely poor girls and women. By 2020, the program aims to scale up to almost 100,000 girls and women in half of the districts nationwide. The targeting of these girls and women builds on well-tested, national poverty testing techniques used under the national Social Cash Transfer Scheme, as well as participatory community methods. GEWEL is implemented by the Government of Zambia with financial support from the World Bank.