The Non-Governmental Organisations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) is saddened with the recent increased incidences of child marriages and specifically the reported case of the 13-year-old girl of Nakonde who was married off by her parents.
NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale said the Nakonde case epitomizes how rampant child marriages had become in the country where about 42 percent of girls marry before the age of 18.
Ms Mwale said NGOCC as an organisation was totally opposed to child marriages and that there was need for society to come together and fight the unfortunate scourge.
She said a 13-year-old girl was a child who needed to be encouraged to be in school and concentrate on education for a better future.
“Child marriages violate girls’ human rights, curtails their education, harms their health and sharply constrains their futures. Once a girl child enters into marriage, they are often removed from school hence depriving them of the opportunity to attain their full potential.
“Additionally, married girls are often under pressure to fall pregnant immediately after marriage, further exposing them to various reproductive health challenges including gender based violence and HIV and other health related complications such as fistula. The recent cases of early pregnancies can equally be attributed to these child marriages,” Ms Mwale said.
She said it was evident that the continued trend in child marriages would adversely affect efforts aimed at accelerating the attainment of Millennium Development Goals on poverty eradication, education and gender equality.
She said if not adequately addressed, this would have adverse spillover effects on the attainment of the post 2015 development agenda.
Ms Mwale said there was need for holistic efforts to ensure that more girls were retained in schools in the hope of reversing the trend in child marriages.
She also said it was expected that more young girls, once they complete their education would exploit a number of economic opportunities in an effort to break the continual poverty cycle. She said her organisation recognized and commended government for its commitment to end child marriages through the earlier launched campaign and the recently held national symposium to end child marriages.
“It is therefore our expectation that government will quickly implement the resolutions of the symposium which include the harmonisation of statutory and customary laws on marriage as well as the definition of the child. There is also need for government and relevant stakeholders to increase social protection to poor households to counteract the financial incentive that motivates families to marry off their children especially girls at an early age,” she said.
Ms Mwale said the NGOCC remained committed to fighting the vice at all levels through intensified sensitizations and meaningful engagement with communities on the implications of child marriages.