Chief Mnukwa of the Ngoni and Chewa-speaking people in Eastern Province says the traditional leadership in his Chiefdom has appointed a Committee of Inquiry on Gender-Based Violence (GBV), teen pregnancies and early marriages.

Chief Mnukwa told News Diggers! in an interview that the appointed committee, which is comprised of headmen and head teachers, would be responsible for ensuring that parents whose children were not in school due to early marriages or pregnancies were reported.

He added that head teachers in all schools would ensure that girl children were tested for pregnancies at the beginning of each term and must report in writing of any child who fell pregnant or was absent from school for more than three days.

Eastern Province recorded a total number of 24,731 teen pregnancies last year, with Chipata ranking first with over 5,000, followed by Lundazi with 4,898 cases, according to official statistics.

“I recently had a meeting with the headmen where we were just planning what we should do this year. We were planning our development agenda for this year and some of the issues we have concentrated on the issues of GBV, teen pregnancies and early marriages. We want to ensure that we control these vices. So, what we have done as a chiefdom is that firstly, we have to know where we are. When you talk of teen pregnancies and early marriages, we want to know the number of people we have in these villages… how many children are in school, for example. So, we have said, let’s have the details on the number of children who are in school. So, we have lined up situations where we have to know the number of children who are at school, in all the grades, who are boys and who are girls,” Chief Mnukwa narrated.

“…and as such, we have set up a committee called ‘GBV, Early Marriage and Teen Pregnancy Committee’, this will ensure that we know exactly where we are this year, 2019, in terms of how many girls are in school and how many are not. Then from there onwards, we monitor what goes on. If a certain number of children are in school, we want to ensure by the end of the year how many of them have made it to December being in school? Then we will know how many have fallen out due to pregnancies and other things so that we can help them. So, through this committee, we will ensure that the next time you ask me to say ‘what is the progression in your chiefdom, what have you achieved on GBV, I should be able to give you figures. Because for now, when they say ‘Eastern Province or Chipata has got so many teen pregnancies’, we do not know exactly where these problems are. So, in the chiefdom, we will tend to tackle that in that manner.”

He explained that the idea of setting up the committee was in order for the chiefdom to have all the cases of GBV, early marriages and teen pregnancies well documented.

“Headmen will ensure that they report any parent whose child is not in school or is married off. Head teachers will ensure that girl children are tested for pregnancies at the beginning of each term and must report in writing any child who is pregnant or is absent from school for an extended period of more than three days. A GBV and educational centre will be built near the palace to house the secretariat office. The idea is to have all GBV/ early marriages and teen pregnancies cases well documented. We have dedicated three hard working individuals to lead this fight. We have linked our GBV activities to the Chipata main GBV drop-in centre. The fight against GBV is made difficult by stigma, those who are affected either do not report or take long to do so. However, a lot of sensitisation has been done and will continue to be applied,” said Chief Mnukwa.