‘Educate girl child to stop early pregnancies’

Girls facing hardships as a result of early pregnancies are those desperately in need of education to break them out of the poverty cycle, says Zambia Civic Education Association executive director Judith Mulenga.

Ms Mulenga condemned the unfortunate trend of blaming the girls’ behaviour on rights activists and children’s rights.

She said the numbers of children falling pregnant were alarming as they exposed the levels of violation of the rights of children in Zambia.

“The vice is a societal problem and needs an integrated and inter disciplinary approach involving teachers, parents, sociologists, developmental psychologists, health personnel, religious institutions, traditional and cultural institutions, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and children themselves.

“Children have to become part of the solution otherwise we adults will be wasting our time if we do not involve them,” she said.

She explained that the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child describe sex as a harmful practice to any person below the age of 18 years old and therefore a violation of children’s rights.

She said the levels of negativity directed at NGOs that worked in the promotion of children’s rights especially those in support of the re-entry programme for girls who fell pregnant had created further criticism that it encouraged mischief.

“Both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child considers engaging in sex by children a harmful practice and therefore a violation of their rights.

“It is harmful at a personal level to the child who falls pregnant, to the child who is to be born, to her family and to society as a whole,” she said.

And Ms Mulenga has called for a holistic approach to the problem that had heaped the blame on children’s rights and the re-entry policy and yet the latter was introduced to mitigate the problem as provided for in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on the rights to education.

Article 11(6) therefore reads, ‘‘States Parties to the present Charter shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that children who become pregnant before completing their education shall have an opportunity to continue with their education on the basis of their individual ability.’’

Ms Mulenga urged Government to take lead in the programme to eliminate the problem of early pregnancies instead of leaving the fight to NGOs as was the tendency in Zambia to assign social challenges such as early marriages or drug abuse or teenage pregnancies to civil society.

“The advocacy should also be home-grown with local champions and ambassadors, to have a real effect on the girls in Luwingu who are at risk of falling pregnant because they could relate and have no clue who the important global figure is,” Ms Mulenga said.

She said there was need to understand the root cause of teenage pregnancies, beyond the physiological sexual act, to what was driving them to engage in early sex.

As an organisation that promotes children’s rights, discussions with the children have revealed that ignorance on issues of sex and sexuality abound among the children as no one was talking to them about their changing bodies and the new feelings they began to experience towards the opposite sex.

“What is the profile of these girls falling pregnant? What are the profiles of the boys and men making them pregnant?

‘‘There is need to do a systematic research into the matter or the vice will continue as Zambian society continues to blame the children or rights activist while the problem is escalating,” she said.