By Wanangwa Tembo
Group Village Headman Kaning’a of Kasungu has asked his fellow traditional leaders in the district to take lead in fighting child marriages by punishing parents that marry off their under-aged children.
Kaning’a made the call over the wee-end in Kasungu during a social-accountability meeting with key community stakeholders on challenges for low adoption of desired behaviour and practices in communities.
The meeting was organised by National Social Mobilisation Committee under ‘Kulumikiza Campaign’.
Kaning’a said while the law puts the marriage age at 18, parents must let their children to continue with their education rather than marrying them off. He cited a case of one village headman who has been dismissed for supporting a child marriage.
“Most of our children will still be in school at the age of 18. We must give chance to them to continue with their school instead of forcing them to marry just because they are in the legal marriage age. It doesn’t work like that.
“As traditional leaders, we must guard against this and punish parents that encourage child marriages.
“Equally, chiefs that support a marriage of minors must be stripped off their position. We must be serious on this,” he said.
Primary Education Advisor (PEA) for Changanga Zone, Juliana Banda, said it is the responsibility of everyone to encourage girls that fall pregnant to report back to school after delivery so that they realise their potential.
She said: “The future of our children is in our hands. We have the responsibility to shape the future of this country by moulding citizens that are educated and responsible.
“An educated person is well placed to challenge abuses and myths, and can meaningfully participate and contribute to the development of the country. We must weed out all obstacles that impede on our children, especially girls, from continuing with their education.”
The meeting, which drew together faith and traditional leaders, youth groups, schools’ mother groups, PEAs and journalists from community radios, also called on faith leaders to incorporate messages about positive practices in their sermons.
Supported by United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Kulumikiza Campaign is a social and behaviour change communication project that aims at accelerating adoption of positive practices in communities to fight social ills such as morbidity, child abuses and harmful beliefs.
The project is being implemented by national and district social mobilisation committees comprising various ministries and departments.