PRETORIA – 24TH FEBRUARY, 2017 – First Lady Esther Lungu has disclosed that she has decided to engage wives of traditional rulers as a strategy to fight child marriages in Zambia.
Mrs. Lungu, who has described child marriage as another form of gender based violence, has said the scourge was rife in rural areas and that she believed communication would be more effective if it was done through chiefs’ wives who could speak freely to the girl child.
She said her office had already implemented this approach and had held events in some rural parts of Zambia.
“As First Lady I felt this would be an effective strategy because the spouses will be able to discuss matters in detail than the chiefs themselves talking to them just on the surface,” Mrs. Lungu said.
Mrs. Lungu said she believed that child marriage should be equated to another horrific form of gender-based violence because “when in an early marriage, the girl will be subjected to doing various chores at home when she is just a baby.”
The First Lady was speaking in an interview at O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg last night before connecting to Pemba, Mozambique, where she will attend a two day conference on ending child marriages and early pregnancies. Mozambican First Lady, Isaura Nyusi, extended the invitation to Mrs. Lungu who will be one of the key speakers at the event.
The First Lady was received by Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, His Excellency Mr. Emmanuel Mwamba and his spouse, Mrs. Monde Mwamba.
Mrs. Lungu further said that, as First Lady, her desire was to do more in order to help the girl child and also support those who were underprivileged in society but that she could not achieve this alone.
She said in as much as various stakeholders such as churches and other cooperating partners were coming on board, line ministries charged with responsibilities bordering on child marriages could do more.
Mrs. Lungu said child marriages were a serious problem that had hindered the girl child from progressing and eventually contributing to national development as their education process was curtailed at an early age.
“This is a disturbing situation particularly when you consider the fact that we have women who are holding decision-making positions in different organisations in Zambia today. We could have had many more women graduating into well-educated citizens had it not been for the problem of child marriages.”
Mrs. Lungu said the scourge also posed great risk to the girl child as chances of small girls surviving when they fell pregnant were slim and even when born, the babies from such young mothers came with deformities or various forms of palsy conditions.
Mrs. Lungu described the invitation by her Mozambican counterpart to attend the event as timely as both Zambia and Mozambique were grappling with the problem of child marriages.
“As the saying goes; one hand cannot clap. So we are going there to interact and see what we can do together in order to fight or even curb this problem of early marriages,” she said.
The First Lady was invited to the conference based on the significant strides that her office and the Zambian government had put up in curbing the vice. The conference is expected to tackle the devastating impact of child marriages on communities in both countries.
And the First Lady has hailed President Edgar Lungu for showing commitment to fighting the vice.
“What I feel encouraged about is that the President is disturbed by this problem of early marriages. He has shown that it is in his interest to see that every girl child grows to her full potential.”
And Ministry of Gender Permanent Secretary, Ms. Edwidge Mutale, who is accompanying Mrs. Lungu, has said that there was need for Zambia to understand that First Ladies’ offices were no longer ceremonial but development-focused hence attendance of events as the one the First Lady was attending in Mozambique had become paramount.
Ms. Mutale said Mrs. Lungu had rare qualities as she had embraced people of different walks of life and shown that she did not want to exclude anyone.
“As a Ministry, we have found a niche in the First Lady which is that she is an epitome of one who does not want to leave anyone behind. Our First Lady has embraced everybody including the differently abled people. She has embraced them and running along with them in pursuing the developmental agenda,” Ms. Mutale said.
First Lady, Mrs. Esther Lungu with former Namibian President His Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba at O.R. Tambo International Airport. This was on 23rd February, 2017 when Mrs. Lungu stopped over on her way to Pemba, Mozambique, to attend a conference on child marriages and early pregnancies
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