A Safe House for the Girls and Young Women of Zambia

Written by Sam White on January 23, 2023

The Need

Many Zambian youth and families endure serious hardships due to extreme poverty and lack of affordable, secure housing. Approximately 70% of the population reside in slums with insufficient access to water, hygiene, and sanitation provisions.[1]

39% of the population do not have access to basic drinking water services.[2] The urban housing deficit is deemed to be over 1.5 million units, with an expected estimate of over 3.3 million units by 2030.[3]

The dearth in these basic needs is just one part of the greater picture of deprivation of well-being suffered by so many Zambians. Within these multiple dimensions of poverty, the levels of physical and emotional vulnerability among this population are staggering.

The country of Zambia is notable for its extreme socioeconomic disparities among the urban and rural populations. 76.6% of the individuals who live in rural areas live in poverty. The equivalent figure for those in urban areas is 23.4%.[4] 54.4% of the population live below the established poverty line.[5]

Despite Zambia having one of the fastest growing global economies, Zambia is still deemed one of the poorest countries in the world[6], with an overwhelming 64% of the population living on less than $1.25 a day.[7] Needless to say, this divergence is striking.

The added layer to these poverty-stricken conditions is that many girls and young women do not receive the opportunity to receive an education. Zambia places number 13 out of the 15 countries included in an African study on the measures of literacy and numeracy.[8] For rural areas, 27% of women have received no education, largely due to poverty, pregnancies, and early marriages.[9]

Child marriage is prevalent in Zambia, with an estimated 1.7 million child brides.[10] Of this population, about 400,000 were married before the age of 15. In 2018, 29% of all young women aged 20-24 married before they were 18 years old, and 5% prior to age 15.[11] 

The implications of gendered educational outcomes are critical. A United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative study reported female literacy measures at 67%, while male literacy is 82%.[12] This discrepancy is a major hindrance for girls’ and women’s independence and personal economic development compared to their male counterparts.[13]

Evidence suggests that early marriages among women is a significant contributor to school dropout rates among girls and young women in Zambia.

World Housing’s Role

World Housing believes in housing first and that the security of a home allows a return of dignity and the return of hope. Safe and secure housing is a fundamental human right; without it, people cannot fulfill their true life-potential. A home is the foundation to achieving the three pillars of social change: health, food security and education. 

We see this in Zambia, where education can have life-changing effects on the lives of women who face additional obstacles, abuses and challenges given their gender as well as the perceived social roles ascribed to women in Zambian society. 

There is a critical need for a safe home as the core base for children to be able to focus on receiving an education. To that end, World Housing is creating housing opportunities to decrease the abuse and suffering that girls endure, with little to no alternatives, due to the traditionally patriarchal values that are present within Zambian culture. World Housing homes provide girls and young women a safe space so they will be granted opportunities and will not need to rely on marriage in order to be taken care of and have their basic needs met.

In order to help address these dire conditions, World Housing is working with Baraka Community Partnerships, who has a long-established history of community-building and project development in Zambia. Baraka’s primary focus for their work centres around education, as well as healthcare in communities in Zambia. However, without safe housing for these vulnerable girls, many cannot realize the opportunities of the educational facilities they provide. This is where the partnership with World Housing becomes critical to the potential impact.

Students at the Maamba Safe House in 2021

Baraka’s mission is to improve educational opportunities for children in Zambia. They supply teaching resources in schools, provide improved infrastructure for learning, and fund children’s educational pursuits from school to college.

Education is a vital building block for communities and the positive reverberations it can have on the lives of young people and their families. In Zambia specifically, one of the most pressing challenges in rural education is the crucial shortage of housing for teachers and their families.

In 2023, World Housing has partnered with Baraka to build a Girls Safe House adjacent to the Baraka Learning Centre, located in a central rural location near Kapiri-Mposhi, north of Lusaka in the Central Province, and currently serves over 20 rural schools in the area.

Major Funding provided by The Canadian Tilling Foundation

We want to thank The Canadian Tilling Foundation for getting involved with this project, and for stepping up with the major funding we needed to get this project launched. Upon learning about the Girls Safe House, and without hesitation, the directors of this local B.C. foundation provided a grant of $50,000 to World Housing. When the Girls Safe House is completed it will be gifted and named in honour of their incredible generosity. The gifting ceremony will take place at the end of 2023.

Project Overview:

World Housing, in partnership with Baraka, has broken ground on a new World Housing Safe House with a total cost of $100,000 CAD needed for construction. Major funding has been provided by The Canadian Tilling Foundation, with more donations being accepted for this project to complete the funding.

The World Housing Safe House will accommodate 30 girls from rural areas of Kapiri-Mposhi district. The girls will be selected according to need and potential to live at the new safe house where they will travel daily to one of the many secondary schools in the town.  They will be looked after by a matron who will manage a budget for food and sundries making sure all girls have their basic needs met.  The girls will help with cooking and cleaning on a rotating basis and grow their own fruit and vegetables in the garden to supplement the food budget.   Academic support will be available to enhance their school learning, giving them the best chance of passing their exams.  This will be provided by either a live-in female teacher or a member of the teaching team at the Baraka Learning Centre.  The proximity of the Learning Centre is a huge benefit, offering facilities for both study and relaxation, including a library, ICT suite and plenty of opportunities for creativity and sport.

A committee of local teachers with an interest in girls’ education will be established to select girls, advise on the running of the house, and help with any issues or problems.  A donor has been secured to fund the operational costs of the new World Housing Safe House and the Baraka Sponsorship Programme Manager will oversee the operations of the World Housing Safe House.

There are five full-time teachers that work at the Baraka Learning Centre, in addition to support staff. The Learning Centre is home to multiple educational resources, including an IT room, fully stocked library, sports pitches, a playground, and various outdoor learning spaces.

In 2022, they have received nearly 17,000 visits. Baraka anticipates this scope to increase to over 20,000 in 2023. Over 90% of these visits are from children, but the Learning Centre also offers adult literacy classes.

Blueprint map of the Baraka Learning Centre

Although there are high levels of vulnerability among young girls and women throughout communities in Zambia, the approach for choosing which of them will be offered a spot at the World Housing Safe House is one that considers both vulnerability and academic potential. 

Potential candidates apply to a Baraka selection committee, and the committee conducts interviews. Individuals that seem to display the most potential to excel academically are offered a spot at the Safe House. The selection process places the focus primarily on girls that come from the poorer areas of the community. This approach strives to place equal weight on the level of vulnerability and academic potential and drive.

During their time in the Safe House, a matron of the house oversees the care of the students. The matron is responsible for cooking food for the students as well as the general operations that come with taking care of the house. She is also concerned with the safety and overall well-being of the girls who are in her care.

The teachers in the Safe House are not only in charge of facilitating the students’ academic pursuits, but also of cultivating their motivation and confidence in applying their skills to both their academic and personal lives.

Our short-term goal in Zambia, is to build the World Housing Safe House and establish it as a new type of housing. It is our aim to build one safe house each year in various locations to provide more girls each year the opportunity for a safe home, and access to education.

Our long-term goal is to create meaningful change in the lives of young girls and women in Zambia, helping them lift themselves out of the gendered cycle of poverty by prioritizing their safety, well-being, and education.

How to Get Involved

Our aim for this project with Baraka Community Partnerships is to cultivate a legacy for girls in the community to not only receive a valuable education with a safe place to live, and on a greater scale, to tackle the gendered trajectory of poverty and education for women in Zambia.

Social Return on Impact Investment.

The World Housing Girls Safe House will be built to stand long into the future. World Housing donors can expect the Girls Safe House to transform the lives of 225 girls over the course of the next 30 years at a cost of just over $500 per person.

World Housing will be organizing a ‘Gifting Ceremony’ to the Zambia Safe House in the summer of 2023 for those who are contributing to the project.

With a donation of $5,000 donors will be able to name a room in someone’s honour as a ‘Legacy Room.’ Below is an example plaque installed on World Housing homes.

A contribution of $100,000 means the entire Safe House is named in honour of the donor. There are opportunities for a $10,000 donation which would go towards funding the food gardens and orchard. With a $20,000 contribution, donors can help provide housing for teachers, which would have an even further impact on the community.

To learn more about how you can get involved in funding this project or donate to help provide a home for the girls in Zambia, click here.



[1]  Zambia Capacity Overview (n.d.). Habitat for Humanity. Retrieved January 15, 2023, from https://www.habitat.org/sites/default/files/documents/Zambia_Capacity_Statement_GFOI-22.pdf

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] Lysén, A. (2018). Poverty Analysis Zambia 2018. Embassy of Sweden.

[5] ibid.

[6] Thelwell, K. (2019). Girls’ Education in Zambia. The Borgen Project. Retrieved December 29, 2022, from https://borgenproject.org/tag/girls-education-in-zambia/

[7] Where we operate—CAMFED Zambia—Girls’ education. (n.d.). CAMFED. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://camfed.org/what-we-do/where-we-operate/zambia/

[8] Ercikan, K., Arim, R., Oliveri, M., & Sandilands, D. (2008). Evaluation of dimensions of the work of the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) and of its programme of cooperation with the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP)—UNESCO Digital Library. Retrieved December 28, 2022, from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000162675

[9] ibid.

[10] UNFPA-UNICEF. (2021). UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage – Country Profile: Zambia. Retrieved December 29, 2022, from https://www.unicef.org/media/111416/file/Child-marriage-country-profile-Zambia-2021.pdf 

[11] ibid.

[12] Girls’ Education in Zambia.

[13] ibid.