While Zambia is quickly modernising, traditional practices are often the causes of violence against children. There are harmful practices such as child marriages, coming–of-age rituals, and the use of children in cleansing rituals.
In many Zambian communities, marrying off girls in exchange for livestock and other goods is still not seen as violence against them
In many Zambian communities, marrying off girls in exchange for livestock and other goods is still not seen as violence against them, or considered as child abuse. This is because these practices have been going on for generations, and have been passed on through time as the normal.
It is not easy to change such practices that have been viewed as normal by the community for so long. Plan International in Zambia has made headways in its advocacy work to influence traditional leaders to make changes to traditional practices that perpetuate violation of children’s rights. To this effect the organisation, working with other local CSOs, has mobilised village chiefs, headpersons, and other custodians of culture such as traditional initiators – the “alangizi” - to be agents of change in discarding harmful practices.
Chief Chamuka: children's rights champion
In the Eastern Province, where girl’s initiation is a common harmful practice, and a key driver of child marriage, Plan International Zambia has successfully advocated to change the teachings that girls receive during initiation ceremonies, so that healthy messages on sex, hygiene and good behavior are taught instead. We also worked closely with traditional leaders who have responded positively and banned initiation of girls during school days. The leaders have gone even further by developing an initiation curriculum with the support of Plan International Zambia. The curriculum is a reference book for initiators when they are initiating girls who have reached puberty.
The involvement of traditional leaders in Plan activities is key to success
The involvement of traditional leaders in Plan activities is key to success as they have authority and influence over community members, political leaders and other key stakeholders. One of the traditional leaders Plan has been working with during this project is Chief Chamuka from the Central Province of Zambia. Chief Chamuka was among 145 traditional leaders trained by Plan International and has emerged as a champion and strong supporter of child protection activities. He has declared zero tolerance of child abuse in Chamuka chiefdom. As a traditional leader; this was an outstanding and commendable declaration.
He actively participates in community activities and has also spoken at various forums in support of the work being undertaken by Plan in his chiefdom. During the launch of the Because I am a Girl Campaign (BIAAG), Chief Chamuka graced the main event where he spoke strongly in support of girls rights.
For more information about Plan International's work in Zambia go to plan-international.org/zambia.
For more information about the work of the European Commission's International Cooperation and Development Directorate General, please click here.