Challenges of child marriages, GBV cases
Published On November 29, 2021 » 3170 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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By Charity Moonga-
FROM childhood, 16-year-old Olivia Maila (not real name) has been a humble, respectful and intelligent girl.
But today, she stares blankly at a Grade Nine examination question paper.
All she is hearing in her mind is the constant crying of her newly born baby.
Olivia has just delivered her first child in the same week that she is sitting for her Grade Nine examinations, thanks to the re-entry policy which allows girls to continue with school even when pregnant.
This is how Olivia managed to proceed to take the examinations.
Olivia is not alone in this situation.
Hundreds of other girls in Zambia are faced with the same predicament and have to struggle through school either with a pregnancy or a baby.
Many of these young girls find themselves pregnant due to early forced marriages or defilement.
Just last week, the Government retrieved 19 girls from forced marriages out of 22 girls who were married off by their parents and guardians in Shiwang’andu district.
Shiwang’andu Education Board Secretary (DEBS) Kalale Katele said early marriages are rife in the district.
He said his office has managed to retrieve 19 girls from early marriages and has managed to put them back into school.
“We have a big problem in this school especially when it comes to the withdraw of girls who are forced into early marriage, and so far we have managed to withdraw 19 girls out of 22 who were married off by their parents, ” Mr Katele said.
He said this when Education Minister Douglas Siakalima paid a courtesy call on newly appointed Shiwang’andu District Commissioner Maureen Mwamba at her office recently.
Mr Katele said at Musonko Primary School,eight pupils who were all in Grade seven have become pregnant.
According to statistics, 4,042 GBV cases were recorded in the third quarter of 2021, in Zambia.
Worldwide, one in three women experience some form of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
Violence against women is a public health crisis that does not only affect women physically, but affects their social, professional, mental and reproductive health.
It is a crisis that many are aware of, but do not understand the full effects on survivors of violence.
As Zambia joins the rest of the world in commemorating the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, it is necessary to find a lasting solution to such abuses against women and girls.
The global theme for the programme, which started from November 25 and runs up to December 10, is “Orange the World: End Violence AgainstWomen Now!”
President Hakainde Hichilema says his Government is committed to fight violence against women and girls.
He described the vice as being detrimental to human progress.
“Violence against women remains the single most prevalent human rights abuse. Women are deprived of economic opportunities and access to education, thereby perpetuating gender inequalities,” he said.
The President said fighting GBV should not only be for the 16 days period, but for the 365 days a year.
Mr Hichilema’s sentiments were re-echoed by Vice President WK Mutale-Nalumango who said 16 days of activism should be extended throughout everyone’s lives.
“People should stop being silent on issues of GBV and this includes the victims. Do not intimidate the victims. Do not be silent but speak out for that child or woman. Statistics must break us and help us stand up against GBV because it leaves none of us safe,” Mrs Nalumango said.
She was speaking at the official launch of the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV in Lusaka.
“GBV against women and girls has an adverse effect on women and girls and they don’t participate in development of society. What difference will it make and what role are you going to play in eliminating or reducing GBV against women, girls and some boys and men,” she asked?
Mrs Nalumango said it is sad that GBV has an effect on families and on the country as it leads to losses on the nation.
She further said that the Government is concerned about GBV against women and girls and cited gender inequality and poverty, as well as imbalanced power relations, as the major causes of the scourge.
“It is sad that GBV cases are increasing and child marriages and defilements are on the increase. While many of the traditional leaders are fighting this scourge, I appeal to all other traditional leaders to assist curb these incidences now,” she said.
The Vice President said the Government is working on policies and legislation to put in mitigation measures for the GBV victims.
She called on stakeholders to continue assisting the girls and the vulnerable women in society.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)Country Representative in Zambia Gift Malunga called for concerted efforts in fighting GBV.
Ms Malunga said the United Nations (UN) in Zambia acknowledged Government efforts to address GBV and ensure the health and development of women, including placement of agender desk under the Vice President’s office.
“More needs to be done on violence against children and ending child marriages,” she said.
Ms Malunga expressed sadness that according to statistics, four in 10 women have experienced physical violence.
She said 46 percent of the women agree that it is justified for husbands to beat their wives in certain circumstances.
“One in three girls are married by the age of 18 and one in three girls below 18 years have already started bearing children. In most cases, GBV committed against girls is not prosecuted,” she said.
To ensure provision of post-GBV services, the UN wants to roll out fast-track courts and take care of GBV survivors.
The UN also wants to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls by 2030.
Ms Malunga called on all stakeholders and the general public to join the fight against GBV in Zambia.
“Cyber-bullying and digital violence should be addressed especially for the women and girls as well as refugees.The scourge must stop and concerted efforts from all stakeholders are needed,” she said.
There is need for Zambia to address social and cultural norms that exacerbate GBV against women and children.
“Adolescent pregnancy and child marriages must be ended in this generation.The16 days are for people to deeply think about GBV in Zambia and ensure no life is lost due to GBV,” Ms Malunga said.
According to UNWOMEN, since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a spike in reports of violence against women.
Therefore, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence is an opportunity to make a difference for the better and everyone has a role to play.

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