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Friday, 26 August 2016

Copperbelt Activists Call For Criminalisation Of Child Marriages

A young mother in rural Zambia
By Paul Shalala

Stakeholders in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province have called for the criminalization of child marriages to protect school-going children from early marriages.

According to World Vision International, Zambia has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world with 42% of women aged 20-24 years married by the age of 18.

During a provincial experts meeting in Kitwe on Monday, Kitwe District Commissioner Chanda Kabwe called for the country to come up with stringent laws which would punish parents who marry off their school-going children.

Mr Chanda said it was sad that children were being married off at an early age and most of them were dropping out of school and becoming parents.

“Some parents, when they see their girl children, they see wealth. We need to start arresting and jailing such irresponsible people so that the girl child can finish school and seize all the opportunities the world has in store for them,” said Mr Kabwe who heads local government departments in the mining town of Kitwe.

He regretted that Zambia has few women in positions of decision making and child marriages were making the situation even worse as girls who were intelligent in school are having their education cut short by early marriages.

And Chileshe Soteli, the Chiefs Affairs Officer in Lufwanyama District called for the punishment of under age children who abandon school and insist on marrying.

Ms Soteli, who narrated how she has over the years dealt with numerous cases of juveniles who opt for early marriage, said there was need for the minors to be punished as a deterrent to would be child brides and child grooms.
Chanda Kabwe

“I come from a rural district where child marriages are common. We plead with these children to stick to school but they insist on marrying. I think we need a law which will prescribe a form of punishment for such children because the situation is getting out of hand,” said Ms Soteli.

And gender activist Sharon Chisanga says most school going children are forced into early marriage because of their parents’ failure to raise money to sustain their lives.

Ms Chisanga, who is also Provincial Coordinator for the Young Women Christian Association, told the meeting that there was need for society to curb this vice because it is depriving  the nation of potential female leaders.

“Parents are also to blame for this problem. When young girls sleep in cabins, they feel uncomfortable and they hope to get married and sleep in better homes,” she said.

Cabins are small houses which were built as temporal houses for single miners on the Copperbelt but over the decades, they have been transformed into family houses despite their small size.

The provincial stakeholders meeting on early marriages was organised by the Law Development Commission to find suggestions from stakeholders on whether to criminalise early marriages due to the escalating cases across the country.

The commission decided to start its countrywide tour and collection of views in the Copperbelt Province because according to the Central Statistical Office, the copper-rich region has the second highest cases of child marriages among the 10 provinces of Zambia.

“Zambia has two sources of law for marriage. Under statutory law, a person can marry at 21 years and we have no problem with that. But under customary law, a person can be married at any age as long as they reach puberty. This is where we have a problem and early marriages are increasing under customary law,” said Gilbert Mwanza, a lawyer and research officer at the Law Development Commission.

Mr Mwanza, who is leading the countrywide collection of the views, is among officer who are expected to draft a bill to criminalise child marriages and harmonise the marriage age.

The Law Development Commission is a statutory body under Zambia’s Ministry of Justice.

The commission is mandate is to continuously research on laws and propose bills to parliament.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Kampamba Mulenga: Copperbelt's Only Female Member of Parliament

By Paul Shalala in Kalulushi

She is the only female Member of Parliament among the 22 lawmakers on the Copperbelt.

Newly elected Patriotic Front Kalulushi Member of Parliament Kampamba Mulenga has fought her way to Manda Hill.

She was among several female parliamentary candidates on the Copperbelt who were adopted by various political parties to contest the August 11 parliamentary elections.

However, all her friends lost and she pulled through alone.

Her victory is good news for gender activists but the fact that she is the only female MP in the second largest province in terms of registered voters, is a source of worry to people who follow women politics closely.

Between 2011 and 2016, the Copperbelt had four elected female Members of Parliament in Kabushi (Ndola), Chifubu (Ndola) Chililabombwe and Lufwanyama.

Back to Kampamba, her election has proved that being consistent in politics can also take one to the national stage.

At a personal level, she is a mother of three who still does household chores like any other mother.

When this blogger met her for an interview, the Kalulushi MP was busy in the kitchen preparing food for her family.

Her rise to national prominence is out of hardwork.

"I was first elected party District Treasurer. Later i was elected the first District Chairperson for the Patriotic Front in 2011. At that time, it was difficult to win such a position as a woman and we were still in opposition," said Kampamba.

She says her hard work in the party led to late President Michael Sata recognising her and making her part of his government.

"President Sata later appointed me District Commissioner for Kalulushi."

It is this civil service position which helped position Kampamba well with the people of Kalulushi, a town which has one constituency.

In that role, Kampamba was one of the few female District Commissioners on the Copperbelt.

And even after leaving the office a few years ago, she went back to politics and stealthily prepared for the adoptions ahead of the 2016 parliamentary elections.

As usual, she was pitted against men within the ruling party but she prevailed.

During the actual elections, she beat all the five men who stood against her.

Now that she has been elected, she has a few words for women on the Copperbelt.
Rashida (left) and Kampamba celebrating their victory

"I will work hard and inspire more women to stand as MPs in 2021. We need more women to take up leadership positions. And for the people of Kalulushi, i want to assure them that i will not disapoint them, i will work towards my campaign promises and develop our constituency," she said.

As she embarks on her five year tour of duty at Manda Hill, the hopes of people in Kalulushi is that she will carry on the mantle and deliver where men could have failed to deliver.

Kampamba is not the only woman elected in Kalulushi.

A number of coucillors are female and the new Mayor of Kalulushi Rashida Mulenga is also female.

Despite sharing the same surname, Rashida and Kampamba are not related.

Their own relation is the quest to develop Kalulushi.