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Spouses of Zambian Traditional Leaders Commit to Safeguarding the Health and Well-bieng of Adolescent Girls

24 November 2017
First Lady Mrs. Esther Lungu (M) with spouses of Traditional Leaders’ during the Traditional Leaders’ Spouses Dialogue Meeting on 23 November 2017

Lusaka 23-24 November 2017: Recognizing the leadership role of traditional leaders’ spouses; and in line with national efforts aimed at securing the health and wellbeing of adolescent girls, over 30 spouses of traditional leaders from various chiefdoms across Zambia participated in a dialogue meeting aimed at enhancing their role in addressing key challenges faced by adolescent girls at community level.

Speaking at the official opening of the meeting, First Lady Mrs Esther Lungu highlighted the significant role of spouses of traditional leaders in safeguarding the rights of adolescent girls at community level.

"Child marriage, as a form of gender-based violence, often leads to early pregnancy and places girls at risk of complications from pregnancy and childbirth. This is a violation of girls' rights. As custodians of customs and traditions, traditional leaders can be champions, initiators and agents of change towards eliminating child marriage, teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence" Mrs. Lungu said.

Reaffirming Governments' commitment towards promoting the rights of adolescents in Zambia, Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Minister Mr. Lawrence Sichalwe and Minister of Gender Ms. Victoria Kalima noted key policy measures that have been put in place to address child marriage, teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence, including the Child Marriage National Strategy (2016-2021), among others.

And speaking on behalf of collaborating UN Agencies, UN Resident Coordinator a.i. Ms. Noala Skinner highlighted the need to address circumstances that make marriage and motherhood the only options for girls.

“As community gate keepers, traditional leaders are in a position to demand accountability from community members to protect girls; as well as advocate for Provincial and District level budgets for programmes aimed at improving the availability of adolescent friendly health services; education; and social protection services to reduce girls’ vulnerability to teenage pregnancy and child marriage. As the United Nations, we stand ready to continue our collaboration with Traditional Leaders to address key issues affecting adolescents” Ms. Skinner said.

First Lady Mrs. Esther Lungu (M) with UNESCO Team Leader Ms. Alice Saili (L1); UN Resident Coordinator a.i. and UNICEF Representative Ms. Noala Skinner (L2); UNFPA Representative Dr. Mary Otieno (R1) and DFID Team Leader - Human Development Team Ms. Sarah Goldsmith (L2) at the dialogue meeting with spouses of traditional leaders on 23 November 2017.

Also speaking at the meeting, acting DFID Head of Office Dr. Sarah Goldsmith underscored that "supporting adolescent education and their entry into the workforce has the potential to break inter-generational cycles of poverty and transform the Zambian economy".

While sharing a joint communique by the spouses of traditional leaders, spouse to Snr Chief Chawala of Masaiti District highlighted their collective commitment to promote gender equality at community level.

"Child marriage cannot be addressed without the involvement of men & boys. We commit to support community efforts that encourage men and boys to be caring and non-violent partners who can promote gender-equitable attitudes & behaviors" Mrs. Chawala said.