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Zambia, UN unite to end child marriage

MWAPE MWENYA, Lusaka
ZAMBIA and other African heads of State, United Nations agencies and civil society organisations have pledged commitment to ending child marriages and other harmful practices in Africa.
The commitments were made on Friday after Zambia successfully hosted a two-day first AU African Girls’ Summit under the theme Ending Child Marriages.
The summit, which was attended by thousands of delegates from across Africa, included three first ladies from Ethiopia (Roman Tesfaye), South Africa (Thobeka Madiba-Zuma) and Zambia’s Esther Lungu.
Other notable delegates were the AU commissioner for social affairs Mustapha Kaloko, ministers in charge of gender and UNICEF associate director for child protection Cornelius Williams.
In a communique read by Ms Madiba-Zuma, a number of action plans were identified by the stakeholders such as advocating appropriate development, enactment and implementation of legislation and policies that effectively prohibit and prevent child marriages.
“Develop and implement initiatives with communities, the media, civil society organisations, the UN system, development partners, foundations and the private sector to increase awareness and understanding of child marriage,” the communique reads in part.
And AU member states have been urged to adopt and enforce legislation that sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 and which effectively prohibits, prevents, punishes and redresses child marriages.
“Ensure girls’ equal access to adequate health, education, justice and other services by removing all structural, economic, legal and cultural barriers,” the communique said.
The AU commission has also been urged to promote and monitor the implementation of the Plan of Action on the Common Position on Ending Child Marriage in Africa by AU member states.
And President Lungu said Government will eradicate child marriage and strengthen policies that promote girl-child education.
President Lungu, who officially opened the summit, said child marriage is a driving force for many health conditions such as fistula, sexually-transmitted infections and HIV.
Minister of Gender Nkandu Luo said Government has started the process of setting up one-stop centres country-wide, training paralegals and counsellors in an effort to curb certain vices that rob the rights of girls.

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