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Spouses of traditional leaders commit to safeguarding SRHR of women and girls

Lusaka, Zambia: 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 women and 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 women and 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 Gender Hon. Elizabeth Phiri 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.

"Child marriage cannot be addressed without the involvement of traditional leaders as community gate keepers. As the Government of Zambia, we commit to supporting community efforts that encourage men and boys to be caring and non-violent partners who can promote gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors" Hon. Phiri said.

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.