Ending Child Marriages in Zambia
Zambia has one of the highest rates of child marriage, both in Africa and the world at large. According to Girls Not Brides, 42% of girls in Zambia are married before the age of 18 — a rate which has mostly stayed constant since 2002. However, the country witnessed a drop in these rates between 2007 and 2014, as sensitisation efforts increased.
Statistics show that rural areas have higher rates of child marriages than urban areas, with more than 50% of girls in rural areas either being married off or falling pregnant before 18. Young girls in impoverished homes remain vulnerable to being married off, as families often see this as an opportunity to earn income. Financial hardship, lack of affordable education, early pregnancies, undervaluing of girls in society, and mismatches between statutory and customary laws are factors which contribute to the high rates of child marriages in the country.
What Is the Impact on Young Girls?
Violence in the Home: Girls married off are likely to likely to experience violence in the
home at the hands of their husbands, who are usually much older than them.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Girls married off at a young age stand at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS from their partners.
Lack of Formal Education: Young girls who are married off are expected to stay home and conduct household duties, as opposed to going to school to get an education.
What Is Currently Being Done About It?
At country level, a national strategy was formulated by the Government of Zambia in 2016, with the aim to end child marriages by 2030. The strategy intends to promote synergy and collaboration among various stakeholders already working towards the goal of ending child marriages in Zambia, to strengthen the efforts directed towards achieving this common goal.
The strategy intends to achieve this goal through:
1.Facilitating the development and review of current legislation and policies on child
marriages to give more consistent guidance on the matter.
2.Creating stronger responses from stakeholders in various sectors to reduce children’s
vulnerability to early marriages. 3.Providing resources and programmes directed towards sensitisation on child
marriages and subsequently reducing children’s vulnerability to child marriages.
Additionally, as of 2022, the Zambian government implemented free public education up to secondary school, an initiative which has lifted the financial burden of paying for school fees, especially from those who could not afford it before. This provides an incentive for parents to
educate their children, especially girls, who would often be considered the secondary option (after their brothers), in the event that families could not afford to educate all their children.
Bupilo Foundation remains committed to empowering the girl child and thus continues to play its part in achieving the common goal of ending child marriages. To that end, the following measures have been put in place:
The focus of the foundation is to provide the necessary tools and resources to encourage
keeping young girls in school all the way through completion of secondary school.
Free sensitisation is offered to parents on the importance of educating their children, while teachings and trainings on important issues such as menstrual hygiene management are given as well. These efforts are directed toward ensuring that girls continue to attend school, even while on their periods. The goal is to encourage girls to prioritise their education, and avoid the alternative of being pushed to marriage as a means of coping with financial pressures that are prevalent in many rural homes.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Zambia is privileged to have many stakeholders playing their part in supporting the empowerment and protection of the future of the girl child, while working towards ultimately achieving the goal of ending child marriages. Meeting this goal will require greater collaboration among various parties to create a stronger unit in the race towards ending child
marriages by 2030.