CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe
IN CHIEF Chamuka’s area, the fight against child marriage, teen pregnancy and gender-based violence (GBV) carries blessings of the palace.
In this community, campaign messages against these social vices greet you as you enter Chief Chamuka’s palace. Similar messages are also inscribed on school walls, motor vehicles and bicycles too.
On the entrance to the palace is a billboard of Chief Chamuka in his royal regalia with a declaration of zero tolerance to early marriage and gender violence.
“In my chiefdom, we have declared zero tolerance to child marriage, teen pregnancy, child defilement, and gender-based violence as these vices hinder children from realising their full potential. Let us protect our children,” Chief Chamuka declares.
There are also stickers that have been produced for the anti-GBV and child marriage campaign.
“Chamuka Royal Establishment: I don’t allow child marriage, teenage pregnancy and GBV in my chiefdom,” some stickers read.
“Zero tolerance to child marriage, teenage pregnancies, child defilement (and) GBV in Chamuka chiefdom,” other stickers read.
The stickers were introduced to increase awareness at village level on practices that are retrogressive to the well-being of girls.
“We will not allow vices that are retrogressive to the girl child,” Chief Chamuka, an anti-GBV activist, told Central Province permanent secretary Chanda Kabwe when he recently visited him.
“It is painful when a child is impregnated. But this should not be the end of her education,” Chief Chamuka said.
One of the stickers also has an additional message urging motorists, “Don’t drink and drive.”
Chief Chamuka wants every vehicle, motorbike and bicycle in his chiefdom to have a sticker for the anti-GBV and girl-child protection campaign.
Under this ambitious campaign, over 1000 different sizes of stickers will be produced and distributed to different partners.
Residents agree with Chief Chamuka on the need to create a conducive environment for all children to live in.
They are willing to walk an extra mile with the chief in a quest to create a favourable world for children and women.
The fight against early marriages and child pregnancy recently gained momentum when by-laws were launched at an event that was attended by First Lady Esther Lungu and her Ghanaian counterpart Rebecca Akufo-Addo.
Mrs Lungu is happy that traditional leaders are fully involved in fighting early marriages and child pregnancies.
“All forms of discrimination against the girl child must be eradicated if women are to positively contribute to the country’s socio-economic development,” Mrs Lungu said.
She called for concerted efforts among stakeholders to stop early marriages in Zambia.
On the introduction of by-laws, the First Lady said this is a positive development towards ending child and early marriages, pregnancies and child labour.
Mrs Akufo-Addo shared with the gathering that child marriages exacerbate GBV, bonded labour and enslavement.
She was saddened by the high prevalence of child marriage in Zambia.
“I wish to acknowledge the fact that children, especially girls, are very vulnerable to all forms of abuse,” Mrs Akufo-Addo said.
“The consequences of child marriage are very serious and can be detrimental not only to the girl child, but to national development as a whole.”
Chief Liteta is another traditional leader in Chisamba who has outlawed child marriages.
“I will not allow early marriages or early pregnancies, even GBV,” Chief Liteta recently shared with the First Lady.
Chief Liteta wants Government to build more primary and secondary schools so that children in his area could easily access education.
As evidence of his commitment to the campaign, the chief’s wives have been trained as peer educators on GBV and marriage.
Early marriages have been a source of concern in Chisamba, one of the 11 districts in Central Province.
Mr Kabwe, the permanent secretary is, however, happy that chiefs Chamuka and Liteta are championing girls’ education and protecting them from abuse.
“We need to protect the girl child as the future of Zambia belongs to young people,” Mr Kabwe said.
“We need to nurture their potential and protect them from vices that will affect their future,” he told the two traditional leaders when he visited them recently.
The Ministry of General Education and co-operating partners like Plan International, European Union (EU), Young Women’s Christian Association and Law Association of Zambia are also part of the anti-child marriage campaign in Chisamba.
Education board secretary for Chisamba, Faith Mwamba, is happy that the campaign has gained momentum with the two traditional leaders providing leadership.
“When it (fight against early marriages) comes from the chiefs, parents listen because of the authority of chiefs,” Ms Mwamba said.
Girls, like the boys, are encouraged to prioritise education and not to rush into marriage. Even if they fall pregnant, they are being encouraged to return to school after giving birth.
“For me, any approach that promotes girl-child education, let’s support it,” Ms Mwamba said.
Ms Mwamba said girls need to be assertive and get an education to secure a better future.
“My appeal to you families and the girl child, when you invest in education, the yield is better,” she said.
Chipembi Girls Secondary School pupils are beneficiaries of Chief Chamuka’s anti-child marriage campaign.
Addressing the pupils, Mr Kabwe said: “Girls, you are the future of Zambia. You are our leaders, you are the leaders of tomorrow [and] Zambia depends on you, your family depends on you.”
He reminded pupils that they are in school to learn and they should focus on their studies.
“Concentrate on school, forget boyfriends or man friends,” Mr Kabwe said. “They will destroy your dreams.”
A campaign against child marriage is never an easy one in an African setting because of the associated cultural norms and values.
But the reinforcement from tradition leaders, who are custodians of traditional values, gives hope that a positive enculturation is attainable.