Monze District Child Protection Committee in collaboration with the Zambia Police yesterday rescued a 15 year old girl from marriage and prevented another 15 year old from being married off in the district.
The committee swung into action to dissolve the two year old marriage and retrieved the girl after the grandfather Reuben Muleya reported the matter of the premature union of her granddaughter Harriet Michelo to junior Moonga aged 21 years old of Chiyoma village in Chief Mwanza’s area.
During the meeting held at Chiyoma village, Mr Muleya told the committee that his granddaughter was forced into marriage by her father Harian Michelo in 2017, at the age of 13 to Moonga who was 18 years at the time without the knowledge and approval of other family members.
He explained that he only came to know about the marriage this year when his granddaughter came to seek refuge at his place after she was chased from her matrimonial home by the husband.
ZANIS reports that Mr Muleya said her granddaughter was in grade six at Ntambo Primary School at the time of her forced marriage adding that, his interest is to ensure that she goes back to school and complete her education.
Mr. Muleya who was visibly emotional said it is so disheartening that his granddaughter had to be stopped from attending school by her father and forced into early marriage which was against the law and development of a girl child.
He has requested the Police and the District Child Protection Committee to fully investigate the matter and if possible, have the father arrested for the offence.
And a tearful Harriet told the Child Protection Committee that she was interested to go back to school adding that, there is nothing good in marriage apart from being physically abused every day further, thanking the committee for rescuing her from an abusive marriage.
Meanwhile, the Child Protection Committee at Hamachenje Village in Chief Chona in Moomba ward, also helped to prevent the early marriage of a 15 year old Atrina Malambo from being forced to stop school and be married off by her parents.
The girl explained to the committee that her parents stopped her from going to school in grade 6 last year and instead forced her to get married for them to get wealth from bride price.
District Child Protection Committee Chairperson, Felistus Mubukwanu warned parents in the two chiefdoms to desist from marrying off their girl children until they attain 18 years but instead encourage them to go to school and support their education.
She observed that it is unfortunate that parents in the two areas prefer to marry off their underage girl children to gain wealth in form of bride price, a practice she noted is retrogressive to the development of the district and the country at large.
Ms Mubukwanu who is also District Community Development Officer said the District Child Protection committee will not relent in the fight against early marriages in the District.
She noted that the retrieval of one girl from early marriage and prevention of another from being forced into marriage is one step in giving other parents a timely warning to desist from marrying off their girl children or risk facing the law.
Ms Mubukwanu further implored parents to take the responsibility of educating and developing their children first above other self-interest adding that, this is the potent way to lift them out of poverty.
Meanwhile, Headman Hamachenje has appealed to government and other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to intensify the fight against high rates of early marriages in the area.
The headman said parents are taking advantage of the remoteness of the place and lack of police presence to commit various crimes including early marriages and Gender Based Violence (GBV).
And Headman Hatalimi from Chief Mwanza’s area urged government to impose stiffer penalties on perpetrators of early marriages to effectively deter parents marrying off their girl children.
He noted that cases of early marriages in Chief Mwanza’s area are high adding that, concerted efforts are needed to root out the problem.