PRESIDENT LUNGU ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AFRICAN COMMON POSITION ON ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE IN AFRICA

YOUR EXCELLENCIES,
LET ME WELCOME YOU ALL TO THIS IMPORTANT EVENT WHICH AFFORDS US AN OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS AND SHARE PROGRESS ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMON AFRICAN POSITION ON ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE.
THE SUPPORT RENDERED THROUGH THE AFRICAN UNION (AU) CAMPAIGN TO END CHILD MARRIAGE IN AFRICA HAS ENHANCED AWARENESS ON THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF THIS SCOURGE, AT INDIVIDUAL, COMMUNITY AND NATIONAL LEVELS.
IT HAS ALSO CONTRIBUTED TO INCREASED INSTITUTIONALISATION OF THE FIGHT AGAINST CHILD MARRIAGE IN MEMBER STATES THROUGH THE DEVELOPMENT OF NATIONAL STRATEGIES. THIS IS COMMENDABLE.
I AM HAPPY TO NOTE THAT ZAMBIA IS AMONG THE COUNTRIES CURRENTLY IMPLEMENTING A MULTI-SECTORAL STRATEGY TO END CHILD MARRIAGE AND I AM AWARE THAT SIMILAR EFFORTS ARE BEING MADE IN SEVERAL OTHER AU MEMBER STATES.
YOUR EXCELLENCIES,
LET ME USE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO EXPRESS MY PROFOUND GRATITUDE ON BEHALF OF THE GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN OF AFRICA TO ALL OUR DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS SUPPORTING AFRICA TO FIGHT CHILD MARRIAGE.
IT IS A SHAME THAT AFRICA IS HOME TO 15 OUT OF THE 20 COUNTRIES WITH THE HIGHEST PREVALENCE OF CHILD MARRIAGE. CHILD MARRIAGE IS WIDESPREAD, WITH HIGHER RATES IN AFRICA, ZAMBIA INCLUDED, AND IT LEADS TO A LIFETIME OF DISADVANTAGE AND DEPRIVATION.

CHILD MARRIAGE MAKES GIRLS VULNERABLE TO HEALTH RISKS OF EARLY PREGNANCY AND CHILD-BIRTH COMPLICATIONS INCLUDING FISTULA. THE BABIES BORN FROM THESE GIRLS ARE ALSO VULNERABLE TO COMPLICATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH PREMATURE LABOUR.
THE UNITED NATIONS (UN) REPORT SHOWS THAT COMPLICATIONS FROM PREGNANCY AND CHILD-BIRTH ARE THE LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH OF GIRLS AGED BETWEEN 15-19 YEARS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.
OF THE 16 MILLION ADOLESCENT GIRLS WHO GIVE BIRTH EVERY YEAR, ABOUT 90 PERCENT OF THEM ARE ALREADY MARRIED. UNICEF ESTIMATES THAT ABOUT 50,000 OF THESE GIRLS MOSTLY FROM LOW AND MIDDLE INCOME COUNTRIES DIE AT CHILD BIRTH.
STILL BIRTHS AND NEWBORN DEATHS ARE 50 PERCENT HIGHER AMONG MOTHERS UNDER THE AGE OF 20 YEARS THAN IN WOMEN WHO GET PREGNANT IN THEIR 20S.
YOUR EXCELLENCIES,
THESE STATISTICS ARE FRIGHTENINGLY. THIS SHOULD PROPEL OUR CONVICTION TO ENSURE OUR COMMON POSITION ON ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE IN AFRICA. HOW DO WE IMAGINE ATTAINING CONTINENTAL GROWTH BY HARNESSING THE YOUTH DIVIDEND, IF WE HAVE SUCH A HIGH NUMBER OF DEATHS OF MOTHER AND CHILD?!
IN AFRICA AND BEYOND, RESEARCH AND PRACTICE HAS PROVED THAT A DECLINE IN A COUNTRY’S BIRTH RATES LEADS TO REDUCTION IN THE YOUNG DEPENDENT POPULATION IN RELATION TO THE WORKING-AGE POPULATION.
THE CHANGE IN THE DEMOGRAPHIC PROFILES ENTAILS OUR GOVERNMENTS LOOKING AT WAYS TO REDISTRIBUTE OUR RESOURCES TO CATER FOR THE NEEDS OF THE EXPANDED WORKING AGE GROUP.

THE ADVANTAGE OF THIS CHANGE IN DEMOGRAPHICS IS THAT THERE WOULD BE RAPID ECONOMIC GROWTH AS THE GOVERNMENTS WOULD RELEASE THE RESOURCES BEING SPENT ON SUPPORTING THE YOUTHFUL POPULATION.
THE REDUCTION IN SPENDING ON A DEPENDENT POPULATION TO SPENDING MORE ON THE PRODUCTIVE POPULATION IS WHAT IS KNOWN AS A ‘WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY.’
THROUGH THIS, AFRICA CAN DEVELOP THE RIGHT SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC POLICIES AND MAKE APPROPRIATE INVESTMENTS SUCH AS HUMAN CAPITAL IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE RAPID ECONOMIC GROWTH. THIS IS WHAT WE NEED TO ACT ON NOW AND ENSURE GUARANTEED ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.

YOUR EXCELLENCIES,
ZAMBIA HAS NOT BEEN SPARED FROM THIS VICE AS STATISTICS INDICATE THAT AN ESTIMATED 31 PERCENT OF WOMEN AGED 20 TO 24 YEARS MARRY BEFORE THEIR 18TH BIRTHDAY WHILST 45 PERCENT OF WOMEN AGED 25 TO 49 YEARS REPORT BEING MARRIED BEFORE THE AGE OF 18, THE LATTER BEING ONE OF THE HIGHEST RATES IN THE AFRICAN REGION.
CHILD MARRIAGE HAS RESULTED IN GIRLS DYING FROM CHILD BIRTH COMPLICATIONS AND BOTH GIRLS AND BOYS CONTINUE TO DROP OUT OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM BEFORE COMPLETING THEIR EDUCATION THEREBY MAKING THEM MORE VULNERABLE TO POVERTY.

A STUDY CONDUCTED IN ZAMBIA SHOWED THAT THE CAUSES OF CHILD MARRIAGE WERE ATTRIBUTED TO POVERTY; LIMITED ACCESS TO INFORMATION; FEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR LEISURE AND RECREATION; SKILLS DEVELOPMENT AND EMPLOYMENT; PROHIBITIVE COST OF SENDING CHILDREN TO SECONDARY SCHOOL; MARRIAGE AS A RESPONSE TO TEENAGE PREGNANCY; INADEQUATE CARE FOR ORPHANS AND INADEQUATE SOCIAL SUPPORT.
ZAMBIA CONSIDERS ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SUPPORT GIRLS AND BOYS COUNTRYWIDE, BUT MORE SO IN RURAL AND PERI-URBAN AREAS WHERE THE SCOURGE IS WIDESPREAD.
IN THIS REGARD, NETWORKING AMONG LINE MINISTRIES AND ORGANISATIONS CREATE POSSIBILITIES FOR ALTERNATIVE PROTECTION MECHANISMS FOR CHILDREN, ADOLESCENTS AND THE YOUTH. IT IS ALSO AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SUPPORTING WOMEN’S LIVELIHOODS.
TODAY’S GIRLS ARE TOMORROW’S WOMEN; TODAY’S BOYS ARE TOMORROW’S MEN. THEREFORE, INVESTING IN CHILDREN THROUGH PROMOTION OF CHILD PROTECTION MECHANISMS CONTRIBUTES TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.
IN 2013, ZAMBIA LAUNCHED THE ‘ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE’ PROGRAMME, SPECIFICALLY WITH THE INVOLVEMENT OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS AS CHANGE CHAMPIONS, SUPPORTED BY THE UNITED NATIONS POPULATION FUND (UNFPA) AND OTHER STAKEHOLDERS.
THE LAUNCH OF THIS PROGRAMME PROMPTED A COUNTRYWIDE RESEARCH ENTITILED: ‘QUALITATIVE STUDY ON CHILD MARRIAGE IN ZAMBIA’ WHICH WAS CONDUCTED IN MARCH 2015. THE STUDY REVEALED THAT CHILD MARRIAGE RESULTS FROM A MYRIAD OF FACTORS.

THESE RANGE FROM POVERTY AS THE MAIN DRIVER, LIMITED ACCESS TO SOCIAL PROGRAMMES, SERVICES AND EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES, PROHIBITIVE COST OF SECONDARY SCHOOLING, TEENAGE PREGNANCY AND INADEQUATE SOCIAL SUPPORT.
I WISH TO REPORT TO YOU, YOUR EXCELLENCIES THAT THE INCIDENCE OF CHILD MARRIAGE IN ZAMBIA HAS REDUCED FROM 42 PERCENT TO 31 PERCENT BETWEEN 2007 AND 2016 DUE TO THE ADMINISTRATIVE, POLICY AND LEGISLATIVE MEASURES THAT WE HAVE PUT IN PLACE TO END THIS SCOURGE.
SOME OF THE INTERVENTIONS WE HAVE SO FAR UNDERTAKEN INCLUDE ESTABLISHMENT OF A CONSORTIUM OF GOVERNMENT MINISTRIES AND CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS ON ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE. THROUGH THIS CONSORTIUM, INSTITUTIONAL AND ORGANISATIONAL GATE-KEEPERS ON ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE WERE APPOINTED.
YOUR EXCELLENCIES,
IN ADDITION, ZAMBIA HAS DEVELOPED A NATIONAL STRATEGY ON ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE. THE NATIONAL STRATEGY WAS LAUNCHED IN MARCH 2016 AND WILL BE IMPLEMENTED OVER A PERIOD OF FIVE (5) YEARS.
THE STRATEGY IS AIMED AT ACCELERATING NATIONAL EFFORTS TO ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE BY 2030 THROUGH THE PROVISION OF AN OPERATIONAL FRAMEWORK THAT REFLECTS TRENDS AND EFFORTS FOCUSING ON PRIORITISED THEMATIC AREAS.

THE OBJECTIVES FOR THE STRATEGY ON ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE IN ZAMBIA ARE:
• TO STRENGTHEN MULTI-SECTORAL RESPONSES IN ORDER TO REDUCE CHILDREN’S VULNERABILITY TO MARRIAGE;
• TO FACILITATE THE DEVELOPMENT AND REVIEW OF POLICIES AND LEGISLATION IN ORDER TO ENSURE CONSISTENT INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION OF CHILD RELATED INTERVENTIONS;
• TO FACILITATE POSITIVE CHANGE IN PREVAILING NEGATIVE ATTITUDES, BEHAVIOURS, BELIEFS AND PRACTICES IN ORDER TO REDUCE THE INCIDENCE OF CHILD MARRIAGE;
• TO FACILITATE THE PROVISION OF CHILD SENSITIVE SERVICES IN ORDER TO REDUCE CHILDREN’S VULNERABILITY TO CHILD MARRIAGE; AND
• TO EFFECTIVELY MOBILISE FINANCIAL RESOURCES IN ORDER TO ENABLE IMPLEMENTATION OF PROGRAMMES IN ORDER TO REDUCE CHILDREN’S VULNERABILITY TO MARRIAGE.
AS A STATE PARTY TO THE AFRICAN UNION COMMON AFRICAN POSITION ON ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE; ZAMBIA HAS REALISED THE CRUCIAL ROLE TRADITIONAL LEADERS PLAY IN MATTERS OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT.
IN THIS REGARD, THE ZAMBIAN GOVERNMENT THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF CHIEFS AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS HAS BEEN ENGAGING TRADITIONAL LEADERS AS CHAMPIONS OF CHANGE IN OUR QUEST TO END CHILD MARRIAGE THROUGH VARIED ENHANCED CHILD – SENSITIVE SERVICE DELIVERY MECHANISMS.

VARIOUS COMMITTEES HAVE BEEN INSTITUTED AT CHIEFDOM LEVEL TO DEAL WITH EARLY, FORCED AND CHILD MARRIAGES AS WELL AS OTHER GENDER BASED VIOLENCE ISSUES. NOTE THAT CHILD MARRIAGE IS VERY MUCH A GENDER ISSUE AS IT IS A DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUE.
IN ADDITION, ONE OF THE KEY ISSUES IN FIGHTING CHILD MARRIAGE IS THE PROVISION OF EDUCATION. TO THIS END, MY GOVERNMENT PROVIDED RESOURCES TO ENSURE THAT 14, 000 GIRLS WERE PUT IN SCHOOL IN 2016 AND RETAINED UNTIL THEY COMPLETE THEIR SECONDARY EDUCATION.
IN ORDER TO WIDEN THE NET AND MAKE IT SUSTAINABLE, 75, 000 WOMEN WILL BE EMPOWERED TO BE ECONOMICALLY VIABLE AND SUSTAINABLE. THIS WILL ENABLE THE WOMEN TO PAY FOR THE GIRL-CHILD AND THE BOY-CHILD WHO IS VULNERABLE AT HOUSEHOLD LEVEL.
ALLOW ME YOUR EXCELLENCIES, TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO EXTEND MY GOVERNMENT’S PROFOUND GRATITUDE TO THE UNITED NATIONS FOR POPULATION FUND (UNFPA) AND OTHER COOPERATING PARTIES WHO HAVE CONTINUED TO RENDER THEIR UNWAVERING SUPPORT TO OUR EFFORTS TO END CHILD MARRIAGE IN ZAMBIA.
YOUR EXCELLENCIES,
AFRICA IS AT A CROSSROADS; THIS IS THE TIME TO NOT ONLY HARNESS THE DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND BUT ALSO TO PROMOTE BEST PRACTICES FAVOURING THE RIGHTS AND WELFARE OF CHILDREN, ADOLESCENTS AND THE YOUTH.

THEREFORE AFRICA OUGHT TO PROMOTE PRACTICES THAT OFFER ALTERNATIVE LIVELIHOODS TO CHILDREN PRONE TO CHALLENGES ARISING FROM CHILD MARRIAGE.
IT MAY NOT ALWAYS BE IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD OR YOUTH TO SIMPLY REMOVE THE VICTIMS FROM MARRIAGE AND RETURN THEM TO THEIR PARENTAL HOME, EVEN WHEN SUCH AN ENVIRONMENT MAY BE UNFAVOURABLE FOR THEIR WELFARE. IN SUCH CASES, IT IS PRUDENT TO PROVIDE FOR THEM NECESSARY SUPPORT IN AN ALTERNATIVE ENVIRONMENT THAT SUPPORTS THEIR WELLBEING.

YOUR EXCELLENCIES,
I LEAVE YOU WITH THESE SUGGESTIONS AND I AM CONFIDENT THAT WE WILL CONTINUE TO ENGAGE EACH OTHER TO ELIMINATE CHILD MARRIAGE FROM OUR COMMUNITIES.

I THANK YOU!
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, TUESDAY, 31ST JANUARY, 2017

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