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Accelerating Progress on Ending Child Marriage in Zambia

Child marriage is a harmful practice that perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty and gender inequality and violates the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls as well as deprives them of the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Zambia has one of the highest rates of child marriage globally with 31.4% of girls being married by their 18th birthday. In order to accelerate progress on ending child marriage and safeguarding the potential of every girl to fulfill their dreams, the joint UNFPA-UNICEF Programme on Ending Child Marriage aims to tackle the vice in some of the most hard to reach communities of Katete and Senanga Districts. 

As part of its interventions, the programme continues to empower adolescent girls in the two targeted districts with life skills education and information on sexual and reproductive health. These activities are delivered through mentorship sessions held in community safe spaces and schools. As a result of the mentorship programme, school administrators in the districts are reporting a reduction in school dropout rates for adolescent girls.

 “Since the programme started at both Sibukali primary and secondary schools, we have recorded great progress in keeping girls in school and seen a decline in the number of child marriages within our community. We have further supported over 26 girls who were victims of child marriage to be re-integrated into school.” Mr. Simasiku Simasiku – Deputy Head Teacher, Sibukali Secondary School. 

Meanwhile, at Senanga School of the Deaf, the programme interventions have supported over 43 pupils to access comprehensive sexuality education and life skills training. 

“Most children come from very vulnerable homes and have hearing impairment or physical disabilities. With support from UNFPA and UNICEF we are able to effectively deliver CSE which is adapted to their needs using sign language. During the programme implementation, we have witnessed a reduction in teen pregnancy and early marriage which has further reduced school dropout rates.” – Mrs Melody Kabwebwe - Deputy Head Teacher, Senanga School of the Deaf

At a District level, the programme has supported the two priority districts (Katete and Senanga) to develop and launch district plans of action adapted from the National Action Plan for Ending Child Marriage and the Seventh National Development Plan. Both districts have also developed costed, multi-sectoral operational frameworks.

Victims of child marriage face both immediate and long term consequences that rob them of the potential to fulfill their life dreams. To prevent this injustice, the concerted efforts of various stakeholders including government, traditional leaders, development partners and communities remain key in accelerating progress towards ending child marriage in Zambia.