The Civil Society Organization Scaling up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN) says there is need to break cultural and traditional barriers in addressing early child marriages.
CSO-SUN Acting Country Coordinator Eneyah Phiri said the problem of early child marriages has deprived young girls the glowing future that they deserve.
Mr Phiri was speaking at the Launch of a campaign against early child marriages at Chief Mwansakombe’s palace in Samfya district, Luapula Province recently.
“We need to change our perceptions and break cultural and traditional barriers in addressing the issue of child marriages. It is way past the time that young women should be seen as being less valuable than their male counterparts in society,” Mr Phiri said.
He added, “Let me speak directly to the leaders in the community, our parents and caregivers, we need to empower our women with skills and knowledge and not continue to give them up as commodities for marriage,” he said.
The launch, which was organised by the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs and supported by CSO-SUN, Plan International and Care & Hope for All aims at addressing early child marriages in Samfya, Luapula Province starting with Chief Mwansakombe’s area.
At 50%, Luapula province, particularly in rural areas, has the highest rate of early child marriages in Zambia.
“Women who are empowered are more likely to empower their families, infact it is proven that women are 10 times more likely to spend their income on food for their families thereby addressing the cycle of poverty at household level. To all the young women, the sky is the limit,” he said.
He added, “We live in a country where women are now leading civil Society organisations like the Law Association of Zambia (Linda Kasonde), we have female-led political parties (Edith Nawakwi) and corporate entities such as Java Foods founded and headed by a woman (Monica Musonda).”
Mr. Phiri said currently in Zambia, adolescent girls and women accounted for a disproportionate number of young people living with HIV and number of new infections among young people.
“This is partly because of high rates of encounters with partners at least 10 years older. When young women should be focusing on their education, they are being pushed into early marriages that put them at risk of HIV infections, thereby devaluing their potential to be leaders in their communities and contribute to ending poverty and inequality,” he said.
He added that malnutrition was also depriving families of the chance to rise out of poverty and that investing in the future of young women was the ultimate source of wealth for any community.
Mr Phiri said CSO-SUN had partnered with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to strengthen efforts in addressing the challenges of adolescent girls accessing nutrition and HIV assistance and to address the barriers associated with that.
Mr. Phiri commended the wife to Chief Mwansakombe, who will be a champion for the campaign, for being a shining example to young women in the area.
And Chief Mwansakombe of the Ngumbo people of Samfya district said early marriages are a big threat to the human rights and well-being of children.
“If a girl child opts for marriage before completing school, it means that the child will be not be able to contribute to the social and economic activities of the country hence affecting the nation,” he says.
Meanwhile, Care and Hope for All Director Chanda Nonde said there was need for parents to provide an environment in the home setup that would not give an opportunity to young girls to get married early.
And Samfya District medical officer Mulamba Chibesakunda said babies born to very young mothers are much more likely to die in the first year of life.
“Young adolescents do not yet have a fully developed pelvis. Pregnancy for them can result in serious consequences, such as eclampsia, premature labour, prolonged labour, obstructed labour, fistula, anaemia (thin blood) or infant and/or maternal death,” said Dr.