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©VSO/Adriane Ohanesian


This year, VSO Zambia reached 1422 members of support groups. Of these, 13% were males and 87% females. Through the ICS programme, Sexual and Reproductive Health activities reached out to a total of 37,648 primary actors. 

Gender empowerment and rights

Woman involved in savings scheme women's group VSO GENDER project Zambia ©VSO/Adriane Ohanesian

Member of the Twampane “Let’s work together” microfinance group in Samfya supported through VSO Zambia's GENDER project.

Rural women in Zambia are more likely to live in poverty than men. Rural women and girls are also vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, HIV and early pregnancy. The country has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world: ranging from 28%-60% of girls married before the age of 18.

VSO aims to improve the economic status of women and girls, as well as their access to rights.

Currently we are targeting 57,400 women and girls in the Luapula province as part of the Gender Empowerment and Development to Enhance Rights (GENDER) project. This focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and AIDS and economic empowerment. Among its achievements are:

  • 3000 people reached through 100+ community groups, which have been supported to increase their income levels through help with saving and lending systems, loan funds, and business training
  • 335 community leaders mobilised to share information on HIV and AIDS in their communities
  • 190 peer educators and 18 teachers trained to reach out to adolescents in schools with sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information
  • Establishing and developing community organisations with small grants and training with which to develop their own income-generating projects

“Some women have started knitting table cloths, [and] some buy fertilizer, tomatoes or ground nuts and resell them for profit”  

Salome Chisama, supoprted through the GENDER project

Youth sexual health and rights

 Field Trainee Prudence Chimanda, 22, practices the procedure for testing for HIV at a clinic in Samfya, Zambia | VSO ©VSO/Adriane Ohanesian

 Field Trainee Prudence Chimanda, 22, practices the procedure for testing for HIV at a clinic in Samfya, Zambia.

14% of Zambians are living with HIV. Young people aged 15-24 are disproportionately affected– with young women in particular up to four times more vulnerable to HIV infection.

Cultural norms in Zambia dictate that young people should not speak when elders are talking. Seniority equals respect, and the final say in decisions.

VSO creates safe spaces and platforms for young people to speak out on issues that affect them. Through volunteers, the Adolescent TALK project (Training and Local Knowledge) aims to equip adolescents with knowledge to allow them to make informed decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

VSO aims to improve SRHR services and practices for around 8,000 girls and boys aged 10-19 years, across four wards in Luapala Province, between 2015-2018. Recent results include:

  • 90 young people trained as sexual health peer educators
  • SRH technical working group formed
  • 40 community-based volunteers engaged to distribute contraceptives within their communities
  • Six youth-friendly corners established to improve young people's access to and engagement with SRH services
  • Seven community-based organizations supported to provide better quality sexual reproductive health and rights information and services
  • 25 local government and ministerial staff members engaged through training in planning youth sexual health and rights
  • Engagement of the wider community is being enhanced through 100 change champions, 200 key decicison makers and radio programmes to help reach the wider youth population

"Change is only very possible through these young people. If we positively invest in them the many economic and health challenges the country faces can be overcome"

Mavis Banda, Adolescents TALK Project Officer (Samfya District)

Improving prison health

Each year over 30 million men and women worldwide spend time in prisons and other closed settings. Levels of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, hepatitis B and C and TB in prison populations is 2 to 10 times as high, and in some cases up to 50 times as high, as in the general population

Seven correctional facilities in Zambia are being targetted as part of VSO RHAISA's regional Prisons Project. The project targets people serving sentences, as well as prison officers and guards to promote better health, nutrition and support as part of rehabilitation.

In Zambia we have so far:

  • Delivered innovative training to Corrections staff that can be transferred to, and used to better support inmates, including in income generation, advocacy, mediation and leadership
  • Peer educators have been equipped to inform prisoners of health risks and how to stay healthy
  • Co-operatives of ex-prisoners living with HIV have been registered so provide better linkages to healthcare and lend each other support. By investing in these co-operatives their members have been able to find dignity and livelihoods through income-generating activities such as gardening, and rearing chickens and pigs.
Zambia correctional officers with VSO staff during training

Zambia correctional officers with VSO staff during training

Land rights

An estimated 61% of land in Zambia is ‘customary’, meaning it is held and distributed under discriminatory traditional customs used to administer land in rural areas.

This means that rural women cannot hold this land in their own capacities. Instead, their rights to access land are defined through their husbands, male parents or male relatives. They cannot own or inherit property and land like this.

This severely limits women’s chances of rising out of poverty as it denies them equal rights and opportunities to productive resources. Even where women do have some land rights in law, traditional institutions don’t often implement the rules properly.

The Land Access Network for Development and Justice (LAND Justice) project aims to improve the security of land tenure by:

  1. Increasing secure access and ownership of land for sustainable development and livelihoods
  2. Advocating for policy changes to improve and formalize ownership documentation, particularly amongst women and people with disabilities

The Land Justice project works with 6 established community Land Advocacy Committees (CLACs) and paralegals in 3 districts of Luapula province to promote the rights of land ownership by women and other disadvantaged groups. This project is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented in partnership with the Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA).

Youth volunteering

ICS volunteers doing a session at Mchmazi primary school in Zambia

ICS volunteers doing a session at Mchmazi Primary School

International Citizen Service (ICS) youth volunteers from the UK and Zambia support our health and livelihoods work in Zambia.  They bring passion, energy and the ability to mobilise and engage local youth. Recent achievement of VSO ICS volunteers in Zambia include:

  • Supporting the development of youth peer-to-peer learning in schools, organising sports sessions to help raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), and providing health information in schools and communities
  • Recruiting and training young people to be volunteer peer educators, who establish youth-friendly drop-in services providing sexual health advice in schools and health clinics
  • Raising awareness of issues such as child marriage and gender-based violence in communities
  • Holding community action days to mobilise communities to improve cleanliness and hygiene of public spaces and infrastructure
  • Increasing commitment to becoming life-long active citizens in their home communities both in Zambia and the UK

"I have enjoyed myself hugely, immersing myself in a different culture and doing work that I feel really makes a difference"

Adam Williams, ICS volunteer


Project examples

Volunteering for Development programme

The Volunteering for Development programme, funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) works to improve quality and access to health and education services as well as livelihood opportunities for the most poor and vulnerable.

The grant recognises VSO's extensive experience of putting volunteers in the right places to tackle poverty and inequality. Find out more


What makes VSO different?

VSO has operated in Zambia since 1964, contributing to policy change, poverty reduction and community empowerment.

We are uniquely placed to work with communities, supporting women and other vulnerable groups on health, rights and household incomes.

Our progress has been made through VSO's people-centred approach to development using a volunteering-based impact model. Evidence shows that results achieved through volunteering offer increased sustainability and value for money.

VSO volunteers are a diverse pool of experienced professionals. They collaborate with their host communities to find innovative, local solutions. They provide continuous training, coaching and mentoring to our partner organisations.

Could you be part of the team spearheading change in Zambia?

VSO Zambia leadership team

  • Saul Banda: Head of Programmes Delivery
  • Erica Chanda: People and Operations manager
  • Dennis Machila: Programme Manager - Health
  • Mwaka Azariah Mulenga: ICS project manager
  • Chikomo Memory Sikwangala: Finance Manager            

How to get in touch

For any questions on donations or volunteering in Zambia, do get in touch:

VSO Zambia Program Office,
P.O Box 32965, Lusaka
4th Floor Mukuba Pensions House,
Dedan Kimathi Road,
Lusaka – Zambia.

Tel: +260 965 700124
Fax: +260 211 225160

Interested in volunteering?

Find out more about volunteering in Zambia