Editor's Comment

Girls not brides!

THE vigour Nobel peace prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has attached to campaigning against child marriages is a reflection that the problem is not only in Zambia but the whole wide world.
Child marriage is damaging to the health, rights, education and economic opportunities of millions.
Girls should be considered as such and not brides. Their right to enjoying their childhood should not be taken away from them.
Because of the consequences of child marriages, many stakeholders have come on board to fight the scourge, including First Lady Christine Kaseba.
Traditional leaders, who are cardinal in this fight, have also risen to the occasion by sensitising their subjects on the consequences of child marriages.
This is more so because child marriages are prevalent in rural areas.
This problem remains a pressing one but it is a step in the right direction to see that Government, civil society and traditional leaders have recognised that child marriage has a distressing impact in girls.
Government should also be commended for launching a national campaign to end child marriage.
Archbishop Tutu, who was recently in the country, rightly put it when he said he would give this fight the same vigour as he did when he campaigned against apartheid.
According to statistics, Zambia is ranked 16th in the world on the child marriage rating, as 42 percent of girls are married by the age of 18.
Due to the fact that they are under age, maternal mortality is high among girls under 18.  These girls are five times more likely to die during pregnancy or labour than women in their early 20s.
Losing these girls comes with consequences as some, if given a chance, could become doctors, lawyers, teachers or any profession they wish.  But because their childhood has been cut short, they end up being wives. The nation would definitely also benefit from such brains if only they are given an opportunity.
By the mere fact that they are under age, these girls are also vulnerable to forced sex and domestic violence. They simply do not have a say over their well-being because of the fact that they are girls and not women.
It is a concern that married girls are more likely to become infected with HIV unlike the unmarried girls of the same age.
The nation and the world over should show even more commitment and do everything possible to provide girls with alternatives to marriage.
Every journey begins with a step, so the fight against child marriages may not be won now, but the commitment shown by different stakeholders is a sign that at some point this problem will come to an end.
As a nation, let us not disturb the ambition of our girls as we keep in mind that we are dealing with girls and not brides

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