EASTERN Province permanent secretary Chanda Kasolo says Zambia is among the top 20 countries with the highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world. And Plan Zambia Eastern Province area programme manager Joseph Kalyata says his organisation is implementing a five-year 2 million Euros project funded by the Netherlands government aimed at eradicating child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
Officiating at a Plan Zambia organised consultative meeting with chiefs at Crystal Springs on Friday, Kasolo, who was represented by Chadiza district commissioner George Phiri, said children in Zambia were faced with a number of challenges which have a devastating impact on their general wellbeing.
He said some of the challenges that children face include but were not limited to defilement, child marriages, teenage pregnancy, physical abuse, psychological abuse and child neglect, among others.
“Zambia is among the top twenty countries with the highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world. The 2013-2014 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey found that child marriage was more common among girls than boys: 17 per cent of girls aged 15-19 are married compared to only 1 per cent of boys of the same age group. The practice disproportionally affects, and has affected Zambian females, as 42 per cent of women aged 20-49 report having married before age 18, compared to 4.2 per cent of men,” Kasolo said.
He said according to a UNICEF 2016 report, the rates of child marriage vary from one region to another, and were as high as 60 per cent in the country’s Eastern region, and as low as 28 per cent in Lusaka. Kasolo said according to UNFPA, child marriages in Zambia were driven by traditional practices and beliefs, and the low social status assigned to women and girls.
He said that government was committed to fighting child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
And Kalyata reaffirmed Plan International’s commitment to fighting early marriages through various projects.
“Among the projects being implemented is the ‘Yes I Do’ Project which is being implemented in Chadiza and Petauke districts. This is a 2 million Euro 5-year project funded by the Netherlands government aimed at eradicating child marriages and teenage pregnancies,” he said.
Kalyata said the project was working with key stakeholders such as traditional leaders, government, civil society organisations and community members. The meeting attracted traditional leaders from Petauke, Chadiza and one each from Chipata and Central Province. During the same meeting, chief Chamuka of Central Province gave a detailed presentation on how he came up with by-laws in his chiefdom. And chiefs who attended the meeting also committed themselves to formulating by-laws in their respective chiefdoms within the course of this year.