A Safe House for the Girls and Young Women of Lusaka, Zambia

Written by Jiwon You on January 23, 2023

Background: The Need

Many Zambian youth and families endure serious repercussions due to the trajectory of extreme poverty in their communities. Due to a severe lack of affordable, secure housing, around 70% of the population reside in slums with insufficient access to water, hygiene, and sanitation provisions.[1]

To add, 39% of the population does not have access to basic drinking water services.[2] With respect to poor housing conditions, 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 are just one part of the greater picture of deprivation of well-being that so many Zambians suffer from. Within these multiple dimensions of poverty, the levels of physical and emotional vulnerability among this population are staggering.

The country of Zambia is notable in its extreme socioeconomic disparities among the urban and rural populations. Considering the individuals who live in rural areas, 76.6% live in poverty, while the equivalent figure for those in urban areas is 23.4%.[4] Out of the total population, 54.4% 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. More specifically, 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 in particular, 27% of women have received no education, largely due to poverty, pregnancies, and early marriages.[9]

Child marriage is a prevalent practice in Zambia, with an estimated 1.7 million child brides.[10] Of this population, about 400,000 were declared 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 on gendered educational outcomes are critical. A United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative study reported that female literacy measures at 67%, while male literacy on the other hand comes out to 82%.[12] This discrepancy is a major hindrance for girls and women as it relates to independence and personal economic development compared to their male counterparts.[13]

Much evidence suggests that early marriages among women are 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 and a home is just the beginning and one of the three pillars of social change along with health, food security and education. 

We see this to be the case in Zambia where education can have life-changing effects on the lives of women who have to endure added barriers and gender-based violence, particularly given 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 so 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 having to marry 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 on their work centers around education and safe housing for vulnerable girls, as well as healthcare in communities in Zambia.

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Students at the Maamba Safe House in 2021

Baraka’s predominant mission is to improve educational opportunities for children in Zambia. Through supplying teaching resources in schools, providing improved infrastructure for learning, and funding children’s educational pursuits from school to college.

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It is no question that 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 rural areas.

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As such, World Housing has partnered with Baraka to build a Teachers Housing Village adjacent to the Baraka Learning Centre (LC). The Learning Centre is 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.

To add, we are in partnership with the Koru Pacific Foundation, an volunteer-run organization focused on assisting children and their families with access to food, shelter, basic infrastructure, education, and healthcare. Koru Pacific’s mission is to financially support charities through various programs and initiatives that are aligned with their philanthropic goals.

Project Overview: World Housing’s Approach

In partnership with Baraka, World Housing will be building a Safe House for 30 girls and young women to live in, a vegetable garden and orchard, and housing for teachers. Students will live in the Safe House for a period of 3 to 5 years. In total, we anticipate that the entire project will cost $100,000 USD.

The Learning Centre serves as a place of both comfort and inspiration for many of the schools and residents of the Kapiri-Mposhi District. The LC was established in 2019, and it has since served as the only educational facility in the district that offers free education for both children and adults through various creative and interactive approaches. In this way, students are encouraged and motivated to engage with the material, which is especially important since most of them come from rural schools or do not have any access to education as a whole.

There are five full-time teachers that work at the Baraka LC, in addition to a few other members of staff. The LC 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 LC also offers adult literacy classes.

Blueprint map of the Baraka Learning Centre (LC)

Although there are high levels of vulnerability among young girls and women throughout communities in Zambia, our 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 will apply to a selection committee, and the committee will convene and conduct interviews with them. Individuals that seem to display the most potential to excel academically will then be offered a spot at the Safe House. The way this selection process is structured places the focus primarily on girls that come from the poorer areas of the community. With this approach, we strive to place as much weight on the level of vulnerability as on 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 motive and confidence in applying their skills to both their academic and personal lives.

With respect to our foreseeable, short-term goal for our work in Zambia, we plan to build the World Housing Safe House and establish it as a new type of housing that we provide. It is our aim to build one safe house each year in various locations throughout Zambia so as to feed into the school.

On a long-term scale, we hope to instill 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.

Closing: How to Get Involved

Our ultimate 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, but on a greater scale, tackle the gendered trajectory of poverty and education for women in Zambia.

The cost of a home is $3000 USD, which will provide a safe shelter for girls for a span of 3 to 5 years. With each year of this project, 30 girls will be impacted. Their experiences living in the Safe House is integral to their pursuits of attaining an education for a better future.

World Housing will be organizing a ‘Gifting Ceremony’ to the Zambia Safe House in summer of 2023 for those who are contributing to the project, with a minimum $3000 donation.

With a donation of $3,000, donors will be able to name a room in someone’s honour as a ‘Legacy Room.’ Below is an example plaque that gets put up 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.

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SOURCES

[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.