Why we work in Zambia
Zambia is a land-locked country in southern Africa, named after the Zambezi River. Since its independence in 1964, it has become known for its political stability and peace.
However, many people don’t have enough to eat, life expectancy is among the lowest in the world and the death rate is one of the highest, largely due to high numbers of people living with HIV/AIDS.
ActionAid trains people about their rights to access basic services like healthcare, clean water and education – and we connect them with local government to help ensure these services are provided.
Almost two thirds of people in Zambia live below the poverty line. At the same time, multinational companies are making huge profits in the country, while not paying their fair share in taxes. Widespread tax avoidance is leaving Zambia’s government short of the money it needs to invest in the health and education of its people, and is crippling the country’s infrastructure.
For two out of three people, farming is their main source of income. Climate change, soil erosion and deforestation are affecting farmers’ abilities to feed themselves and their families.
Women's rights in Zambia
In remote areas, few girls are able to go to school, or complete their studies. Many girls are taken out of school to get married. As a result, around 42% of women living in rural areas are illiterate, compared to 23% of men.
What we do in Zambia
Empowering women to fight discrimination
In rural areas of Zambia, traditional practices like child marriage and customary laws that prevent women from owning land mean that women and girls are often treated like second class citizens. Women are frequently cut out of decision making that affects them, and violence against women is high; 59% of women in Zambia experience physical violence in their lifetime2 .
That’s why ActionAid has helped set up Reflect Circles in rural Zambia - safe spaces for groups of women to meet and discuss issues chosen by and relevant to them. Through diagrams, dance, music and other non-traditional methods of learning, Reflect Circles have empowered women in a range of skills from setting up small businesses, reading and writing, to understanding and asserting their rights.
Together women identify the problems they face and find lasting solutions, improving their communities from within.
Training farmers to grow more food
Every year, climate change, soil erosion and deforestation are making it more difficult for farmers in Zambia to feed themselves and their families.
ActionAid trains farmers in simple conservation skills, such as compost making and crop rotation, so that fields can be replanted again and again. Now farmers no longer have to cut down trees every season to make new fields, protecting the soil from erosion and turning into desert.
Helping children get an education
For many children in Zambia, going to school is difficult. Often children have to walk for long distances to get to their classes, classrooms are in poor condition and there’s a lack of trained teachers. Many children are also forced to marry or start work before they have finished primary school.
We have helped set up Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) across Zambia, so that parents understand the benefits of sending their children to school, as well as how to lobby their local government to provide quality education. We encourage local communities to educate their girls and provide rural schoolchildren with bicycles to get to their classes safely and on time.
Our Tax Power Campaign
ActionAid Zambia is one of 20 countries campaigning for tax justice – calling for multinational corporations to pay their taxes in poor countries so that it can be used to pay for public services like education, healthcare and new roads.
Supporting communities throughout the Covid-19 pandemic
People in Zambia are still facing the devastating consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
ActionAid's emergency response has supported at least 7,000 people across the country with emergency supplies, including hygiene kits, food packages and PPE items for health workers. Our longer-term work includes providing training and tools for agricultural workers, as well as targeted awareness-raising projects to prevent violence against women and girls.
Helping communities affected by food shortages
Zambia and neighbouring countries have faced severe food shortages, including in 2020.
ActionAid's support has included the distribution of chlorine to sterilise water, and the coordination of food and water distribution in six districts across Zambia.
Campaigning for tax justice
Caroline Muchanga works almost fifteen hours a day, seven days a week at her sweet stall. Despite the fact that she doesn't make enough profit to feed her children, let alone afford healthcare and education, Caroline pays more tax than the multinational company next door. “We feel so sad because we are suffering a lot and The Zambia Sugar Company does not pay tax," Caroline told us.
Zambia lost an estimated US$10.4 million in tax between 2007 and 2012 when the owners of Zambia Sugar, Associated British Foods (ABF) exploited a tax loophole between Ireland and Zambia. That’s enough to pay the school fees of 18,000 Zambian children. In 2013, ActionAid exposed how ABF did this. ActionAid Zambia led the campaign on the ground, pressurising decision makers to end the loophole.
After years of campaigning, Zambia and Ireland finally agreed to negotiate a new, fair treaty, meaning additional revenue that could give Zambia’s schools and hospitals the tax funds they urgently need.Read more about our tax campaign
A bike to get to school
Micheck, 12, has lived with his grandmother since 2010 when his mother died. He started going to school, but couldn't keep going as it was so far away. Now he rarely misses class because he has been making use of one of the bicycles which was donated by World Bicycle Relief and distributed by ActionAid within Mpika District in 2014.
Before it took him two hours to walk this distance, but now he can cycle in one hour. Micheck says, “Previously, I felt that I was missing out on learning. I wanted to learn. I also missed my friends at school. The bicycle is helping me not to miss class and to be on time. As well as using it for school, I also use it to travel to the clinic.”Sponsor a child in Zambia
Women leaders helping reduce child marriage
Ruth lives in Nakonde district. "Child marriage is a very big problem here", she says. "Children as young and nine or 10 are getting married."
ActionAid organised training for 48 local leaders about the dangers of early marriage and the importance of education. Almost all of the leaders are men, apart from Namutanda. Namutanda says: "I will use my position to make sure that women’s and girls’ issues are respected in this community.”
All the village leaders have shared the training in their own communities. Seven villages have begun actively monitoring marriages. As a result, 28 girls who had dropped out of school to get married have returned to their education instead.
Ruth says, "ActionAid has done a lot of work on women’s rights. Now women have confidence when they speak to men about these issues.”Read more about our work on women's rights
Page updated 7 March 2023