By Staff Reporter
Non-governmental Gender Organisations’ Coordinating Council Executive Director Engwase Mwale says child marriage is a national crisis.
Paying a courtesy call on Mumbwa Town Council Chairperson Gracious Hamatala yesterday, Ms. Mwale said there was need for all leaders to continue speaking against child marriage.
“Child marriage is a national crisis. We need to work together to ensure that we fight child marriage in our country. We even have representatives from the chief…in other areas where we have are implementing this program, the chiefs have banned child marriage. We are hoping that with this committee’s intervention, we can work towards that. We are not just looking at withdrawing girls from marriages and sending them to school. We are also looking at introducing some empowerment programmes targeting the families where the girls are coming from. We want the committee to continue engaging these families so that parents are involved,” Ms. Mwale said.
“We are also hoping that the police and the council can come in…use your various engagements to ensure that we all sing the same song…that child marriage is not good for sustainable development, that child marriage brings about health complications for girls themselves…economic challenges as well that come with it…we are hoping that even in your position, you can be one of those champions. At every given opportunity you can say something around ending child marriage. We came to Mumbwa to ensure that the committee makes sure that the girls we are working with go back to school this week.”
And Mr. Hamatala said child marriage was a serious problem in Zambia.
“We acknowledge that the problem of child marriage is a serious one. Every time you visit the hospitals especially during important days like when taking Christmas hampers or visiting New Year babies, you will find that over 50 per cent of the mothers are under age. If you find those that are of age, again you will find that that will be their second or third child. Implying that when they had their first child, they were still under age,” Mr. Hamatala said.
“This is quiet huge challenge and for us in Mumbwa, an intervention like yours and any intervention that comes to help us and not only talk about child marriages but go a step further to help children that have been affected by getting back to school and provide awareness raising programmes for parents…empower them in one way or another for sustainability so that in an event that the project is not there, they can continue taking care of their children and sending them to school. I like the multi-faceted approach that you have taken; not just taking the child back to school but also help their parents. One of the biggest problems of child marriages is poverty so we need to get to the root cause. We need to deal with poverty, illiteracy and other issues.”
Mr. Hamatala said he was happy that NGOCC had engaged traditional leaders in the ending child marriage program.
“You have got our 100 per cent support on this project. Count on all of us…all the civic leaders here in Mumbwa. Our aim is to ensure that Mumbwa begins to contribute to national development. We cannot develop if our girls are getting married at a tender age,” Hamatala.
NGOCC’s sensitization programmes on ending child marriage in Mumbwa has led to parents that married off their children surrender the girls to the village committee to help them get back to school.
NGOCC also had meetings with Primary School Head Teachers and the District Education Board Secretary.