Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
NEWS that 33 girls from Mkushi, Central Province, were recently withdrawn from early marriages and re-enrolled in school with the support of the Social Welfare Department is a positive move, given the high statistics relating to teenage pregnancies and early marriages in Zambia.
District Commissioner Luka Mwamba partnered with three traditional leaders: Chief Chitina, Chief Mulungwe and Chief Shaibila, to remove girls as young as 13 years old from marriages so they could have a chance to go back to school to empower them academically for the future.
Mr Mwamba commended the traditional leaders for their non-compromising stance against child marriages. With such support, he was confident that Government would manage to reduce the numbers of girls being married off.
Research has shown that teenage pregnancies and early marriages are major drivers of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) because child brides do not have confidence to make informed decisions related to their sexual and reproductive rights. These practices that are deeply entrenched, especially in rural and peri-urban areas, put young victims at risk because the practices compromise the girls’ transition from childhood into adulthood and beyond.
Education helps to break the cycle of poverty; which is one of the reasons that contributes to parents marrying off their daughters at the expense of sending them to school.
Last week, a fact sheet by the Ministry of Gender and the European Union (EU) showed that Zambia is faced with high levels of SGBV and child marriages, coupled with a high level of societal acceptance of GBV and domestic violence.
The report further indicated that awareness on existing support services for SGBV survivors was low and often, it is not systematically and comprehensively provided.
According to statistics, there was an increase in the number of GBV cases reported during the first three quarters of 2016 and 2017, increased by 18.6 percent. In 2017, 16,090 cases were reported compared to 13,092 in 2016.
To address the scourge that is often perpetuated through traditional cultural practices and norms, the European Union (EU) pumped over K300 million to implement a new SGBV prevention and support programme for survivors in Zambia.
EU head of delegation to Zambia and COMESA Ambassador Alessandro Mariani, speaking at the launch of the SGBV prevention and support programme to survivors, explained that the programme is expected to run between four to five years and will be rolled out to 20 districts within Northern and Luapula provinces.
Mr Mariani emphasised that although the EU has contributed financially towards the eradication of this dehumanising scourge, the onus lies primarily on implementers to work with the media, traditional and church leaders in order to see the end to the problem.
Without education, girls face inequities in the social, political, and economic spheres. This leaves them vulnerable and denies them a chance to contribute fully as meaningful citizens. Educating girls has a positive effect on their families and society. It contributes to achieving other health and economy-related development goals for any nation.
Empowered girls grow into empowered women who are able to take better care for themselves and their families, increase their earning potential, serve as active and equal citizens, and act as change agents, thereby driving economic growth in their communities. Quality education for all children, including girls, is rooted in human rights and gender equality, which in turn creates a ripple effect of opportunity that influences generations to come.
One can only hope that the 33 girls will embrace the opportunity to get back to school to empower their lives. The girls are among the lucky few, some are not so fortunate.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA