Child marriage is a complex issue and requires the participation of many different stakeholders in order to end the practice that perpetuates child poverty and gender inequality. The participation of children is critical.
Plan International Zambia’s education work has seen growing success and continued development due to our strong partnerships with communities, government, other NGOs and cooperating partners.
In an effort to increase the participation of children in the fight against child marriage, Plan International Zambia has trained boys, girls, and young women in sexual reproductive health rights, and on the consequences of child marriages, in Eastern, Central, and Luapula provinces through a programme called the Girl Power Programme.
Children have since formed school clubs in all 3 provinces with the aim of raising awareness amongst children and their parents on the consequences of child marriage and other forms of child abuse and harm. One group was formed by girls at Zemba School in Chadiza district Eastern Province.
“Our aim is to act as the watchdogs of our fellow girls to prevent them from getting married,”
The group has 22 girls between the ages of 11 to 17 years, who monitor the attendance of girls in the school and follow up on those who miss classes to find out the reason for their absence.
“If we discover that a girl is not coming to school because her parents want to marry her off, we advise her parents not to do so but to take her back to school even if she is pregnant. If parents underrate us we call the child helpline on 116 to seek the intervention of the police and so people pay attention to what we tell them,” says Precious, who has been in the group for 2 years.
Efforts by this group of children at Zemba School have saved some girls at risk of marriage. Precious recalls that her group followed up a girl who was enticed by a man who bought her a cell phone and some biscuits as inducement for marriage. Apparently, the girl had accepted even though her parents were not in support of the marriage.
“We visited this girl at her home and we taught her the dangers of child marriage such as fatal complications at the time of giving birth and being in poverty with her children if she does not complete school. We also warned her that her ‘husband’ would be arrested for marrying her as she was too young. She understood our message, returned the cell phone to the man, and she is currently with us in school now.”