Government says the free education policy being implemented has reduced the likelihood of girls being married off.
Gender Division permanent secretary Mainga Kabika has observed that the strategy of keeping girls in school is one of the best ways to prevent child marriages.
Speaking when she paid a courtesy call on Kalabo district commissioner Musangu Njamba, the permanent secretary observed that the lack of access to education was a contributing factor to rampant child marriages.
“President Hakainde Hichilema is focused on eradicating child marriages by the year 2030. The President has given the nation free education. So that means that children who were being married off early can now go back to school.
“ Because of free education, we have already started seeing (positive) results where children are actually leaving marriages and going back to school to complete,” she said.
Ms Kabika further noted that government is also committed to improving the welfare of boy children.
“It’s also our responsibility to ensure that the boy child goes back to school as well. I know that a lot of boys focus on fishing and sometimes they miss class. We don’t want to see that. We want our children to be educated,” the Permanent Secretary said.
She has since commended cooperating partners, civil society organisations and other stakeholders for complementing government efforts aimed at ending gender inequality, child marriages and gender based violence.
Meanwhile, Gender Division acting director Nkombo Nchimunya said traditional leaders are key stakeholders in the fight against child marriages.
“In order to reduce child marriages and even child pregnancies, we should focus a lot on engaging traditional leadership so that together we fight the vice.
“ We all hail from villages, and it’s in most of those areas where children end up getting married or pregnant because maybe then they had no access to school. Let the children go to school and be educated, then they can participate adequately in national development,” she said.
Ms Nchimunya noted that advocating for women participation in national development is meaningless if girl children are not taken to school, educated and empowered with either skills or resources.
And Kalabo district commissioner Musangu Njamba revealed that the prevalence of child marriages has reduced following the bursary sponsorship initiative under the Constituency Development Fund as well as implementation of free education in schools.
“Each and every family is seeing to it that their children are going back to school. We have to build more classrooms (because) the available ones are filled up to full capacity. Instead of having 40, we’re having 60-75 pupils in a class. We have to make sure that we build more classrooms,” Mr Njamba said during the same meeting.
The permanent secretary and her entourage were in Kalabo district to meet stakeholders and discuss women empowerment as well as gender rights protection.