The news that about 1,500 girls were retrieved from early marriages and prostitution from 2015 to date, made for good reading.
According to the 2013/14 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey, 31.4 per cent of women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18. This represents a reduction from 2007 when 42 per cent of women in the same category were reported being married before the age of 18.
Advocacy for Child Justice (ACJ) executive director Josephat Njobvu said of the 1,500 retrieved from marriage and prostitution, 453 were reintegrated into school while the rest were supported with various skills for income generation to keep them away from indulging in sexual activities.
This is a step in the right direction because some girls fall pregnant at a tender age of as low as 13 years and they drop out of school. The fear of taking care of a pregnancy and a baby at such a tender age grips them and they end up getting married.
Many of these children get into marriage with the belief that all will be rosy in that life but shockingly, more often than not, these children end up being abused by their husbands who are the very people they trusted would take care of them.
Many of them explain that their husbands turn into drunkards and beat them at every opportunity.
Aditionally the people that marry these girls have no capacity to take care of them and they experience struggle after struggle as they fail to support themselves and the child.
At an early stage of their lives, these children end up divorced and more miserable.
The idea of taking them to school plays a huge role in bettering their lives.
In 2013, the Zambian government launched a nationwide campaign to end child marriage and teen pregnancy. In addition, a national End Child Marriage Strategy was launched in 2016, followed by the development of a National Plan of Action on Ending Child Marriage in 2017.
The United Nations Child Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) support the Ministry of Gender in the government-led campaign, which involves a consortium of 15 line ministries.
Poverty and cultural practices continue to be some of the main drivers of child marriage in Zambia.
Some families have been said to find child marriage beneficial because they receive a bride price (lobola) in terms of money, cattle or goats and that makes them happy.
These families are also said to enjoy the extra food that a married daughter is able to give them once she gets married to their relation.
Other causes of early marriages as have been highlighted are cultural practices such as initiation ceremonies which expose girls to adult life such as sexual intimacy and this makes them want to start experimenting right away.
Peer pressure has also been known to influence girls into ending up with early pregnancies and marriages which consequently destroy their lives.
There is need to enhance sensitization about early pregnancy and marriages to ensure that families begin to appreciate the dangers of child marriage, which includes maternal death and the greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections like HIV.
Families should also be taught to appreciate the fact that their children can take better care of them once they get better education.
There is also need for communities to work together in preventing child marriages by keeping children in school and sensitizing teenagers that are entering relationships.
Young people should also be provided with information on sexual and reproductive health at their disposal to help them refrain from risky experiments.
It is good that for many of these 1,500 girls retrieved from marriage and prostitution, despite missing a huge part of their education while in marriage, they are now back in class and their lives are being re-written with renewed hope.