World Vision Zambia has launched a campaign against Child marriage, dubbed: “it takes Zambia to end Child marriage.”

Speaking at the launch of the campaign in Mumbwa district, Wednesday, World Vision Zambia Communications and Advocacy Director Pamela Chama said the campaign would be implemented in over 40 districts.

“In response to violence against children, World Vision has launched a global campaign called ‘it takes the world to end violence against children’. This campaign is a loud call to all countries, to all people to ensure that children are not only protected from violence but that they have safe, loving environment to grow up in. In relation with the global campaign, World Vision Zambia recently came up with a national campaign called ‘it takes Zambia to end Child Marriage’. This campaign will be implemented in the over 40 districts where we are operating. I am happy that six of these are in the 20 priority districts for the government of Zambia’s national campaign. World Vision will use the strong relations we have developed over the last 30 years to turn the tide against Child marriage. We’ll be working with district administrations, schools, health workers, traditional leaders, faith leaders, parents, and most importantly with children to turn the tide,” Chama said.

She said World Vision would continue to support government’s efforts to end child marriage saying children who are married off were deprived of life opportunities such as education.

“As we have been rolling the campaign out, many of us have found that we know a loved one or a friend who was married as a child. I urge all of you today to respond to the cries of many of our children who are in marriages in our community by making a commitment to support a girl in school now. This topic is so important because it robs children mostly girls, of so many opportunities in life. Many early brides are deprived of education, additional skills and autonomy. Young married girls often have little power in relation to their husbands and in-laws. They are therefore extremely vulnerable to domestic violence, abuse and abandonment. Today, World Vision Zambia re-commits itself to supporting efforts by the government, donors, civil society and other stakeholders in the fight to end child marriage in Zambia,” said Chama.

And in a speech read on his behalf by Central Province deputy Permanent Secretary Felix Ndopu, Central Province Permanent Chanda Kabwe said child marriage was still a national problem.

“The 2013-2014 Zambia Demographic and health survey indicates that child marriages remains a challenge in Zambia, with a national prevalence at 31.4 percent. Child marriage can lead to forced sex, early pregnancy and child birth related complications. Marriage at a young age often signifies an end to education. Once married, girls have little or no access to sexual and reproductive health services. The Zambian government has instituted a national response to address child marriage by launching a multi-stakeholder anti-child marriage campaign. The Zambian constitution provides for prohibition against child marriage through various laws and enactments. The marriage act of Zambia establishes that the legal age for marriage is at 21 years,” Kabwe said.

He noted that most child marriages were not formally registered, making it difficult for legal action to be taken against perpetrators.

“The major obstacle in curbing this evil is that most of these marriages are carried out informally and remain unregistered. There is need to make mechanisms much stronger than just these laws in order to stop child marriage. Immediate reporting to the law enforcement agencies needs to be done when one hears of a child marriage taking place,” said Kabwe, who also thanked World Vision Zambia and other stakeholders for their efforts in fighting against child marriage.

Meanwhile, senior Chief Shakumbila said human rights and technological exposure had contributed to the increase in child marriages.

“We are here today under the theme that it takes Zambia to end child marriage. Yes indeed, we understand it, but how do we approach the situation to fight this scourge that has engulfed us for a long time? We must also take into consideration that on the other end of the same subject, we have created another problem, we have given too much rights to our children. These days parents have nothing to say to children because of these rights and the exposure to the world environments. Phones for example, have destroyed our children, they want to practice what they see on the screens of their phones. We must find a better of controlling this situation, if we continue just saying let’s end child marriage without dealing with the cause of moral decay in our children, we may not achieve anything. But now a parent can’t discipline a child because of human rights that have been given to children. If a parent beats a child as a way of discipline, the parent will be taken to police and be locked up, how do you expect us to work? Fellow leaders in government, let’s find a better way of dealing with the situation and a stiffer punishment for those who marry off young children,” said Chief Shakumbila.

And a 30-year-old grade 9 pupil Alice Lupiya, who is in the same class with her 15-year-old first born daughter, testified the challenges she faced when she stopped school and got married at the age of 16.

She also encouraged other girls to focus on school and avoid early marriage.

“I am Alice Lupiya, aged 30. I am at Mushimbizi day secondary school. I stopped school when I was 16 years and got married. But what happened when I got married was that I got myself into trouble, I used to cry always due to all kinds of abuse by my husband. So I decided to quit the marriage and went back to school, I was lucky to be sponsored by the World Bank. I started school in grade 8, I never knew how to read even a single word, when someone spoke in English the only word I could manage to speak was ‘fine’. Right now I am in grade nine, I am able to read and communicate with someone in English. I have three kids from the same man, the eldest is 15 years old and I am with her in the same class. I don’t feel bad being in the same class with my daughter, before I started school, I asked her and she agreed that we can be in the same class. I would encourage other girls not to stop school for marriage, it if full of problems especially when you are young. Let them concentrate on school for their better future,” said Lupiya.