Government has commended Paramount Chief Kalonga-Gawa Undi of the Chewa people in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique for his effective efforts to end child marriages.
Eastern Province Permanent secretary, Paul Thole, says the traditional leader has directed his chiefs in the three countries to work with their subjects in order to fight early pregnancies and marriages.
He was speaking in a speech read on his behalf by Assistant Secretary, Clement Chilembo during the official opening of the three days’ workshop on ending child marriages in Chipata.
Mr Thole said the conference is aimed at enabling traditional leaders from the three countries share and learn best practices on ending child marriages.
“It is of great joy that we are all gathered here today as leaders from three countries namely Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia to deliberate on matters that affect our girl children,” he said.
Mr Thole said the meeting will create an exchange platform among traditional leaders in the development of progressive actions towards ending child marriages.
“This meeting will also enable the traditional rulers to compile agreed upon common actions and interventions and key advocacy messages for chiefs to take forward to their respective countries and chiefdoms. It will help to develop a strategy for the implementation of interventions and development of lobbying and monitoring instruments to track agreed interventions,” he said.
Mr Thole said government was aware of the roles being played by its partners such as Plan International and the traditional leaders in ending child early and forced marriages in Southern Africa.
“For instance, the traditional leaders perform a variety of critical roles which are regulated by customary law including dispute settlement, adult education, natural resource management, local development, agricultural development, democratic governance and traditional religious tasks.
Mr Thole said traditional leaders are defined as local elites who derive legitimacy from custom, tradition, and spirituality.
“Additionally, it is important that we all realize that traditional leadership consist of the paramount chiefs, senior chiefs, sub chiefs and village headpersons who play significant roles in development and this is the reason we as government want to closely work together with the traditional leadership all the time,” he said.
Mr Thole implored the traditional leaders and Plan International to work hard in finding the lasting solutions to end child early and forced marriages in communities of the three countries.
“Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), fragmented customary and statutory laws that make it easy for perpetrators to go unpunished. It is on this basis that as a Government, we seek your support to deal with this dynamic and complex matter,” he said.
And Plan International Zambia Eastern Province Program Area Manager Dennis Lembani, said the meeting with the traditional leadership from Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia has been held in order to find ways aimed at ending child marriages and pregnancies in the three countries.
Dr Lembani said Plan International engaged Paramount Chief Kalonga Gawa Undi for his chiefs to join the fight against teenage pregnancies and early marriages as they were very common in his kingdom.
Meanwhile, Chieftainess Kawaza of the Chewa People in Katete commended the partnership with Government and Plan International in the fight to safeguard the lives of young girls and boys.
The traditional leader said the meeting will ensure the traditional rulers attending the meeting play a key role in ending teenage pregnancies and child marriages.