President Edgar Lungu today hosted a meeting with the African Presidents attending the African Union 28th assembly in the Ethiopian capital to promote ending child marriage across the African continent.
The Zambian President urged other leaders to implement a common African position in ending child marriage which is rampant across the continent. According to Lungu, 15 out of 20 countries with a high prevalence of child marriage are in Africa.
Three quarters of the 16 million adolescent girls that give birth annually are already married. The child wife is exposed to health risks during pregnancy and more prone to child birth complications. According to the United Nations, the leading cause of death for girls aged between 15 years to 19 in the developing countries are complications from pregnancy and child birth.
According to Lungu, if the government worked towards a low birth rates then there would be a smaller young population dependent on the government, meaning governments can redistributed resources to cater to the needs of the expanded working age group thereby experiencing a rapid economic growth.
“I am happy to note that Zambia is among the countries currently implementing multi-sectorial strategy to end child marriage and I am aware that similar efforts are being made in several other African Union member states” said President Lungu
According to a study conducted in Zambia, child marriages are caused by poverty, limited access to information, lack of skills development and employment, limited opportunities to engage in leisure and recreation, used by parents to avoid incurring the cost of taking children through secondary education, used as a response to teenage pregnancy and inadequate social support.
“I wish to report to you, your excellencies that the incidence of child marriage in Zambia has reduced from 42 percent to 31 percent between 2007 and 2016 due to the administrative, policy and legislative measures that we have put in place to end this scourage.” Said Lungu
Zambia has a national strategy on ending child marriage that was launched in 2016 which will be implemented over the next five years. The Southern African nation has engaged chiefs and traditional leaders to champion the campaign of ending child marriages. In addition the Zambian government has taken at least 14000 girls from poor backgrounds through school in 2016 and will fund at least 75,000 women to empower them economically so as to provide financial support the both girl and boy girl child.
“Africa is at cross roads, this is the time to not only harness the demographic dividend but also to promote best practices favouring the rights and welfare of children, adolescents and the youth” said Lungu