After Equality Now's 2008 success in getting justice for a 13-year-old Zambian girl who had been raped by her teacher, the organization embarked on a project in partnership with the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women to more comprehensively address the issue of sexual abuse of girls in Zambia.
Locally called “defilement,” the rape of minors is rampant in Zambia and schools have been identified as common locations for assaults. Launched and coordinated by Equality Now, Our Girls, Our Future: Building Synergy to End Violence Against Girls in Zambia, represents a coalition of Zambian civil society organizations working strategically to empower girls and enact and implement school guidelines targeting sexual violence.
Incorporating school children in the effort has been particularly successful, resulting in lively inter-school co-ed debates and plays addressing sexual violence; five “Safe Spaces” clubs reaching 1500-2000 girls who are breaking their silence and being educated on their rights; five boys’ network clubs reaching 600-1000 boys challenging stereotypes that condone sexual violence; and the participation of girls and boys in radio programs on the issue.
Legal professionals have also been trained on ways to use the law to defend girls’ rights, and journalists on improved methods of reporting on violence against girls. New leadership in Zambia is showing an interest in the coalition’s work and Equality Now is hopeful that there will be increased opportunities.