OVER 100 girls from 37 schools in Kalumbila and Solwezi districts of North-Western Province have been empowered with entrepreneurship skills and mentored on sexual reproductive health and the dangers early pregnancies and marriages.
The girls between the ages of 12 and 18 recently attended First Quantum Minerals’ annual Girl Child Mentorship Camp, which was also aimed at providing a uniform platform through which all targeted schools can have similar tools for implementation of girl child empowerment programmes.
“First Quantum Minerals has been implementing this programme within our host communities as part of our sustainability programmes since 2013 to support the girls as they grow mature, to discourage teenage pregnancies and early marriage, so as to prepare them to face real life situations,” said FQM country manager General Kingsley Chinkuli.
He was speaking at the seventh graduation ceremony for the FQM Girl Child Mentorship Camp at Trident College in Solwezi.
He explained the programme focuses on training girls in sexual reproductive health so that they can make informed decisions and delay sexual debut to avoid teen pregnancies, early marriage and sexually transmitted infections including HIV. Other skills taught are assertiveveness, communication, negotiating and study skills with emphasis on education for sustainable personal and community development.
Since 2013, when the programme started, 691 girls have graduated. This year’s number at 107 is the largest.
This year alone, more than 10,500 pupils – both boys and girls – have been sensitised with information on sexual reproductive health in the participating schools.
And training has been given to 60 teachers on sexual reproductive health for sustainable information dissemination within the schools.
Speaking at the same event, North-Western Province minister Nathaniel Mubukwanu said: “Zambia continues to face high rates of teenage pregnancies, early marriages and dropout rates, and North-Western Province unfortunately has not been spared. It is for this reason that your government encourages and appreciates such initiatives of private organisations such as First Quantum Minerals that seek to empower our girls in the various communities.”
Mubukwanu added that government has adequate legislation to protect the welfare of the children, and that every stakeholder must take full personal responsibility as an active player to protect and safeguard the future of children.
“Poverty is not an excuse for marrying off a girl at a tender age. For us it is not only criminal, but it is also inhuman, and should not be accepted by our society. We want to appeal to the church, traditional leaders, all the parents, and civil society leaders to rally their energies in ensuring that we reduce and probably eradicate this evil practice in our societies. We can only break our poverty cycle if we invest the little that we have in educating the girl child,” he continued.
And FQM’s projects and programmes advisor Gertrude Musunka said: “This camp is very different in the sense that we have had this camp after the launch of the Books Before Boys and Books before Girls clubs within the schools that are represented here. This is simply the icing on the cake.”
She added that FQM has programmes throughout the year within the 37 schools, raising awareness among schoolgirls and boys on sexual reproductive health, as well as engaging parents and the traditional leadership.
“We also have the women – our mothers – who were being trained on the sidelines of the mentorship camp because we are trying to answer some of the challenges that are presented to us as we do these mentorship camps,” said Musunka.
The 2019 FQM Girls mentorship camp participants also undertook a tour of FQM’s Kansanshi Mine to raise awareness among the girls of the different career opportunities for girls and women. Female employees working in different positions ranging from engineers to operators spoke to the girls.
The girls also had an opportunity to welcome President Edgar Lungu at Solwezi Airport when he visited the province to officiate at the Expo North West.