The Ministry of Gender has launched the 2019 to 2021 District Action Plan in Senanga district whose goal is to contribute to the targeted 40 percent national reduction in child marriages by 2021.

And Minister of Gender Elizabeth Phiri has expressed sadness that despite positive interventions by government and cooperating partners, Zambia has continued being one of the countries with high rates of child marriages.

This is contained in a statement issued by Ministry of Gender Media Liaison Officer, Mwape Mwenya, Monday.

Phiri said the Action Plan which had been made possible with support from UNICEF, focused on interventions to eliminate teenage pregnancies and child marriages in the district.

She said the district analysis report indicated that there was an escalating level of teenage pregnancies due to various factors like; poverty, traditional and religious beliefs, limited access to schools, weakening of community and family support systems among other pressing factors.

Phiri further said the 2018 district situation analysis indicated that 19 girls in grade six and 16 girls in grade seven got pregnant in 2017.

She said she was at pains to learn that some girls start sexual relations as young as 12 years due to some traditional ceremonies which expose them to information about sex.

“I am saddened that despite the main positive interventions government and cooperating partners are putting in place, Zambia has continued being one of the countries with high rates of child marriage in Eastern and Southern Africa as 31 percent of women aged 20-24 are married before the age of 18,” she said.

And Phiri said irrespective of the high prevalence rates, Zambia had made a lot of progress in the fight against child marriage as in 2015, Zambia co-hosted with the African Union Commission, the first- ever African Girls’ Summit on Ending Child Marriage.

She said her ministry was also the secretariat for the Consortium on Ending Child Marriage, comprising 15 Ministries.

Phiri added that the ministry had also been coordinating national efforts against child marriage while addressing vulnerabilities, as well as, consequences associated with marrying off children.