President Edgar Lungu has challenged newly-appointed Gender Minister Elizabeth Phiri to seriously address early marriages and gender-based cases prevailing across the country.

Phiri, who is also Kanyama PF member of parliament, replaces Victoria Kalima who died in office on June 12, 2018, after an illness.

Speaking during the swearing-in ceremony at State House, Wednesday, President Lungu cautioned Phiri to help government in addressing the numerous gender issues affecting men, women, boys and girls, and also issues surrounding early marriages and gender-based violence.

President Lungu also urged Phiri to buy into his vision of bringing to zero marriages of under-aged girls across the African continent.

“As you take up this position as Minister of Gender, you are expected to help government to seriously address the numerous gender issues affecting men and women, boys and girls, not to talk of early marriages and gender-based violence, among others. You may wish to note that I am a champion on ending child marriages on the African continent, and as such, you should buy into my vision of bringing to zero marriages of innocent under-aged girls, not only here in Zambia, but other African countries. It is my sincere hope that you will take keen interest in the issues of women empowerment programmes through clubs and cooperatives to bring to fruition our party’s vision of empowering the less privileged,” President Lungu said.

In his message of congratulations, the Head of State hailed Phiri’s contribution to the PF.

“I recognise your significant contribution to our party, the Patriotic Front, and also our country. Your passion to serve the Zambian people at any leadership level is what earned you a position in the party’s Central Committee. Further, your commitment to the party and welfare of the Zambian people earned you an appointment to the diplomatic service as deputy High Commissioner of the Republic of Zambia to Tanzania. During your diplomatic tour of duty, you represented our country with the diligence and integrity of a true leader. You being a member of parliament for Kanyama constituency is testimony of your strong desire to serve and promote development for the people of Kanyama and Zambians in general,” President Lungu said.

President Lungu also conferred Irene Kunda and Stephen Lungu with the “State Counsel” status.

“May I also take this opportunity to congratulate you, my learned colleagues, on your individual appointments as State Counsels. A perusal through your Curriculum Vitaes reveals that you not only have relevant knowledge and understanding of the legal profession and processes, but you command vast experience within Zambia and beyond. This gives me the confidence to confer you with the status of State Counsel. Madam Irene Mwezi Kunda, you were admitted to practice in 1983 as an advocate of the High Court of Zambia. Thereafter, you were admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, you qualified to practice as a notary public, an arbitrator, mediator and later to sit as a commissioner of the Small Claims court. With this vast experience and understanding of the legal profession, you deserve the recognition,” said President Lungu.

“Mr Stephen Mbayani Lungu, I have noted that your interest in the legal profession started at your tender age. Since then, your passion to excel in the profession has remained consistent and earned you numerous qualifications and awards. You were admitted to the bar in 1992 and joined the private sector where you have in the last 26 years represented various private companies and individuals. You have also been instrumental in the development of legal aid programmes and specialized in corporate and financial matters and as such, you equally deserve the recognition. I wish to congratulate you all on your well-deserved appointments.”