By MILDRED KATONGO -
Government has begun an aggressive project dubbed ‘Keeping the girls in school’ to retrieve girls from early marriages, starting with the district of Lufwanyama on the Copperbelt.
Community Development Permanent Secretary Howard Sikwela said Lufwanyama district has been picked because of the high prevalence of early marriages and this was being done under the first phase.
Rev Sikwela said officers from his ministry would soon be dispatched to undertake the programme in the rural district.
Rev Sikwela said this when he called on his Copperbelt counterpart, Elias Kamanga in Ndola yesterday.
He said apart from providing the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) to the less privileged; the ministry was helping and empowering the young girls with education.
“I am on my way to Luapula, but I have passed through the Copperbelt to let you know and confirm that the project on ‘Keeping the girls in school’ is on and on the Copperbelt, Lufwanyama has been picked (as the first place to start from) and we will commence the mopping up of the girls this month,” he said.
Rev Sikwela said so far, the ‘Keeping the girls in school’, had managed to retrieve 14,000 girls from premature wedlock and urged Mr Kamanga to support and supervise the empowerment programmes being carried out in the province.
Mr Kamanga said he was happy that the ministry was implementing various programmes that benefited the people in the province and he was ready to support and supervise the work.
“We thank you for considering empowering our people in the selected districts. We stand ready to supervise and support any government projects being spearheaded by the ministry focused on uplifting the livelihood of people,” he said.
Recently the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) warned that the prevalence of early marriages and teenage pregnancies in Zambia had reached crisis proportions.
The UNFPA indicated that out of the 600,000 estimated total population of women aged 20-24 in Zambia, one out of every three (31 per cent), became a bride before their 18th birthday. Similarly, out of every three girls (29 per cent), one would become pregnant while she herself was still a child.
UNFPA country representative Mary Otieno said during a tour in Luapula, that the statistics translated into approximately 510 girls per-day losing out on their life’s potential.
She said that out of the 20 countries with the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world, with 15 in Africa, Zambia was among the 15 countries.
She said an analysis conducted by the UNFPA indicated that if the present trend continued, 453,000 Zambian girls born between 2005 and 2010, would be married or in union, before the age of 18, by the year 2030.