Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati has given Phalombe District Commissioner up to August 20 to facilitate the dissolution of all the child marriages that have been registered in the district in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
Kaliati said this when she launched a campaign in ending violence against women and girls with a focus on teenage pregnancies and bringing back girls and other vulnerable children to school in Phalombe district which is being implemented by Oxfam.
According to Phalombe District Social Welfare Officer Fackson Chidzako, at least 2,784 girls between the ages of 10-19 are pregnant, out of which 800 have gotten married and 559 have experienced different kinds of abuse and violence. However, so far the district has managed to dissolve about 379 marriages.
Kaliati said the news that about 2,784 teen age girls are pregnant is very worrisome and needs to be acted on swiftly.
“It is very disappointing to note that these young girls are getting pregnant at such a tender age, thus I have ordered the council to make sure all the child marriages are annulled by 20th August,” said Kaliati.
She further expressed worry after noting that about 559 school going children have dropped out and got married.
According to data from the office of District Education Manager, out of the 559, 101 are boys and 458 are girls out of which 312 are pregnant.
“I will not sit back and watch the future of these young girls being shuttered, I have therefore asked them to end the marriages failing which, my office will take unspecified action,” said Kaliati.
On the K43 million Covid-19 response package that Oxfam has donated to the district, Kaliati said this is commendable as it will help ease the financial pressure that the people were facing while also cautioning the rise in GBV cases in the district.
In her remarks Oxfam Country Director Lingalireni Mihowa said being a humanitarian organization, they decided to raise funds for the Covid-19 in order to caution the impacts of the pandemic which has affected people in the country particularly women and girls.
According to Mihowa, Oxfam has raised about 700,000 Euros for Covid-19 response and they are still looking for more funds to reach out to a lot of women and girls who have been vulnerable due to the pandemic.
During the launch, the minister facilitated an interface meeting with Chiefs, parents, faith leaders, girls and government officials on the causes of the rise in teen pregnancies and child marriages and also the actions that can be taken to deal with the vice.
The minister said government will ensure that the existing laws and policies that protect women and girls such as the National Plan of Action on Combating GBV, ending child marriage strategy, prevention of domestic violence act and child care protection and justice act among others are fully functioning and adhered to.