ACCESS to land remains an enormous challenge for women who reside in customary holdings, says Action Aid Zambia.

In a message to mark the International Women's Day which falls tomorrow, Action Aid country representative Pamela Chisanga said such women faced difficulties because tradition only allowed them to have land as appendages of their male relatives and spouses.

Chisanga said at national level, statistics showed that the 30 per cent gender proportion had not been realised.

She said the deep-rooted cultural practices that impeded women from owning and controlling customary land had worsened their socio-economic situation.

"This vulnerability shall continue if traditional leaders do not embrace measures which can promote and protect women's rights to land in Zambia. Government equally needs to review the national gender policy and ensure that the 30 per cent threshold is upheld by agencies of the Ministry of Lands," she said.

Chisanga said women were still being marginalised and no meaningful development could occur without the full involvement and equal participation of women.

She said in the education field, there was almost gender parity in primary schools enrollment levels of girls and boys and the implementation of the re-entry policy had been a positive step forward.

However, Chisanga said there was a huge difference between the number of boys and girls that were proceeding to higher classes despite the parity at grade one.

Chisanga said although Zambia had signed a number of declarations, among them the Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and SADC gender Protocol, it had failed to domesticate these and translate them into national law, policy and action.

She called on the government to take its commitments at regional and international fora with the seriousness they deserved.

Chisanga said the gender-based violence legislation had been discussed for the past four years and needed to be taken to Parliament this year.

"We call on the members of parliament to vote for this important piece of legislation in their numbers. It would have been a perfect way to celebrate IWD by having a law in place that would guarantee the safety of women in their homes, in schools and in churches," said Chisanga.