Editor's Comment

Chiefs should help protect children

WE WOULD like to commend Chief Chikwanda of Mpika in Muchinga Province for his tough position on child abuse.
The chief has banned the distillation and drinking of kachasu, a highly potent locally brewed spirit, and directed headmen not to allow bar and shebeen owners to open their businesses in the morning.
Alcohol abuse increases the cases of child abuse as it robs drunken adults of their capacity to make intelligent decisions.
We also commend the chief for creating young child protection communities aimed at protecting the rights of school-going children.
Children are the backbone of any society because they are the future leaders.
If children are not allowed to grow in an environment in which they enjoy protection from discrimination and abuse, they may not exploit their full potential.
This will make it difficult for them to make a meaningful contribution to the development of the nation.
It is in this light we welcome any initiative that is aimed at protecting children from all forms of abuse and discrimination.
We note that Chief Chikwanda is ahead in the implementation of the Gender-based Violence Act by setting up special courts in his chiefdom.
It is important, as the chief explained this week, to help parents and guardians to understand that the children they are looking after have rights which should not just be respected but protected as well.
“These ideas are aimed at protecting our children against exploitation from their own parents and guardians. I want to see children in my area to be educated and contribute to the development of Zambia,” the chief said.
The chief said he had been influenced to take the measures after receiving numerous reports of children being withdrawn from school, which is depriving them of an opportunity to be educated.
He warned parents and guardians to stop sending their children to work in their fields and carry out other strenuous tasks when they are supposed to be in school.
These abuses are common in rural areas and impoverished urban settlements, and there is need to ensure that children are protected from them.
The other common form of abuse is child marriages.
Children as young as 14-years-old are withdrawn from school and married off, condemning them to a lifetime of poverty and illiteracy.
What Chief Chikwanda is doing is commendable, and we urge other traditional leaders in other parts of Zambia to emulate him.
There is need for chiefs to work with headmen and women, church and civic leaders to protect children’s rights.
government has already launched a campaign aimed at eradicating the scourge of child marriages in collaboration with its co-operating partners.
First Lady Christine Kaseba condemned the abuse of children’s rights at the launch of the campaign in Eastern Province not long ago.
In her speech as guest of honour during the launch, Dr Kaseba highlighted that girls who are victims of child marriages are among those who are least educated, poorest, and living in rural areas.
She said this scourge hinders development and slows down the attainment of the millennium mevelopment goals (MDGs).
She highlighted that child marriages are influenced by cultural practices, which are highly respected and rooted in the African tradition.
If the situation remains as it is, she warned, an estimated 453,000 young girls born between 2005 and 2010 would be married or in union before the age of 18 years by 2030.
This should not be allowed to happen because Zambia is a signatory to numerous human rights instruments aimed at protecting children, the most prominent being the Convention on the Protection of the Child.
It was adopted and opened for endorsement, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989, and came into force on September 2, 1990, in accordance with article 49.
We urge all the chiefs and their headmen countrywide to declare war on child abuse, including child labour, as Chief Chikwanda has done.

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