SOME traditional leaders in Sinda’s Nyanje area have revealed that parents insult and intimidate them when they try to discourage early marriages of their children.
Speaking during the REPSSI anti-child marriage campaign meeting in Mpeni village, headman Mpeni Killion Phiri complained that some parents arrogantly respond to advice traditional leaders give them on the future of their children.
“We the headmen around here are so happy with this fruitful meeting, you have really spoken on our behalf but on one thing, I am surprised that women are quiet. These women insult us, these women threaten us when we talk to them [about] not marrying off their young ones ‘it’s not your child!’; ‘this is my child and no one can control me!’ ‘I do what I want with my child as no one was their during conception!’ We are told such words. Now REPSSI is here, chieftaines representative is here and the councillor is here, can you answer them the way you answer us?” Phiri asked.
He said the messages against early marriages were meant to help secure the children’s future.
He told parents that as long children remain uneducated, poverty would still be high in communities.
“What REPSSI needs, what government wants is not to steal the children from you; they are your children, you gave birth to them, they will remain yours but all what we want is to help you have responsible children who will take care of you later in life. Most of you can’t speak English like these children who spoke the poem, you need interpreters to explain to you messages in the poem. Now sure, you want your children to remain uneducated like you? Then know that poverty will still remain high in our communities,” said Phiri.
And Adamson Phiri from the Reformed Church in Zambia said churches were doing their best to preach against early marriages from a spiritual perspective.
“As a church we are also in sorrow over the practices because most of these people, children and adults, are members in our different churches. Truly, messages are being shared with them and at times even at church, we are cheated over the age of the child but by grace we are able to trace and cancel the marriages. It’s our appeal as a church that let’s not give up this fight, let’s join hands because if we give up, our communities, churches, nation and families will be unprofitable…” said Phiri
However, councillor Stephen Tembo criticised the parents, blaming them for hindering community development.
“Let’s not live in the past, life is changing, there is nothing good in having an uneducated child. I was a drunkard and doing all sorts of things but because of the education I have, today I am your councillor. Don’t kill the future of your children with your ignorance. If children become pregnant by mistake, never should you pave way for abortion, it’s a crime and you will be arrested, government introduced re-entry policy and your child will be able to get back to school. Let’s not destroy our communities with illiteracy,” he advised.
Tembo challenged the church to discipline choir groups as there was a lot of dust coming out of them.
He also condemned village headmen who authorise early marriages, warning that the law would visit anyone who undermines government agenda.
Meanwhile, chieftaines Nyanje’s Induna Scout Phiri told the gathering that REPSSI was in agreement with the palace to sensitise the communities against early marriages.
He warned gule wa mkulu to ensure school boys under the age of 18 were not initiated because early marriages do not only affect young girls but that lack of exposure to education will force young boys think of marrying early.
And REPSSI said communities were undergoing hardships due to certain things that could easily be stopped or avoided.
REPSSI indicated that it does not give families or communities answers to their problems but helps them make informed decisions over community problems such as early marriages, teenage pregnancy and abortion.