Jennifer opts for school over early marriage.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

18 year old Jennifer, with baby on her laps, is a young mother who resides in Petauke District, about 400 kilometers from the capital city Lusaka.

She comes from Kawanga community in Kalongo village in chief Mwanjabanthu’s area. Kalongo village is a large region with several homesteads spread across the vast land. Life in Kalongo is fairly simple, with families always trekking to cultivation fields as part of their livelihood.

Jennifer burst into laughter during a community led Child Rights committee meeting in Kalongo village Petauke District.

However, despite their hard working and simple lives, the people of Kalongo face numerous challenges that include the lack of human rights awareness. Most of the villagers are ignorant about basic human rights which also encompass the area of child rights. Parents here are not aware of the basic rights that their children deserve.  These issues cut across numerous child rights matters ranging from access to education, health services, survival/development and rights to identity. However, in this village, one of the predominant child rights challenge is that of child marriage.

Parents in the village say they have failed to discourage their children from indulging in early marriages because of the poverty that most households experience. They feel that sometimes girl children rebel because they are enticed with money that the boys make after herding cows on part time. Nevertheless, this money is not sustainable for up keep and the young couples end up going back to their parents for support after bearing children. Most families do not realize the importance of education in the lives of the children.

The situation in Kalongo has been like this for a long while and has seen young girls like Jennifer falling into marriage when she was sixteen. Jennifer explains that she had a rough time in marriage because the couple was too young and immature for the union.

“I will begin visiting my friends in order to sensitize them on the dangers of child marriage and the benefits of education as a child right” she says

Save the Children has been instrumental in mitigating the problem by introducing community led Child Rights Monitoring Committees, whose main aim has been to sensitise the locals on the importance of upholding children’s rights.

Kalongo community attending a focus group discussion with officials from Save the Children.

More about the Community Led Child Rights monitoring  committees.

The joint monitoring and review meetings between Save the Children were undertaken in order to facilitate the community monitoring teams’ with skills to help them sharpen their data collection, information dissemination sharing of their findings and  measuring progress, challenges and achievements.

The trained children and adults that formed community monitoring teams have been developing monitoring plans with specific child rights to focus on as well as clear targets in terms of numbers of households, villages and children to reach.

The Community Led Child Rights monitoring committees were formed in 2016 as an initiative by Save the Children to uphold children’s rights in rural areas.

Jenifer is a good example on how children have benefitted from this initiative.