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Work continues in Zambia to protect children

Young women participants of the End Child Marriage project.

December 16, 2022

By Christine Hills

As PWRDF enters its third year of partnership with the Zambian Anglican Council Outreach Program (ZACOP), the development arm of the Zambian Anglican Church, real results are being achieved. The Zambian Council Outreach Program is working to end child marriages, educate young people about sexual reproductive health and rights and raise awareness about child abuse, particularly in young girls. It has resulted in a reduction of teen pregnancies from 68 cases in 2020/2021 to 24 cases in 2022. The Omleo Mumba Primary School recorded zero teen pregnancies in 2022.

Zambia has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world with 31% of Zambian girls married before they turn 18 and 6% before the age of 15. In rural areas, poverty leads many parents to withdraw their daughters from school and offer them for marriage to older men, in most cases in exchange for payment of lobola, or a dowry.

This project strives to make young people, especially girls, less vulnerable to gender-based violence, teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, child marriages and inter-generational poverty. To do this, ZACOP works with young people through sports and drama and creates safe spaces in schools, churches and communities for young people to access remedial services. Church and community leaders are also involved in implementing the program, bound by their shared desire to to address issues that harm the social fabric in Zambia. ZACOP addresses taboo issues in communities, including the church community, that has led to further engagement with both.

The ZACOP Field Officer is instrumental in the program and has held two meetings with the community leaders, including six section leaders, 15 church leaders and five Katete parish youth executive leaders. In these meetings, the Field Officer provides education on the issues and promotes the program.

Sports have proven to be an innovative entry point for 1,800 girls and 904 boys who were able to play soccer and netball. These activities were combined with education on child marriages, child abuse, teen pregnancies, hygiene, sexually transmitted infections and substance abuse. Counselling services were offered to 108 girls and 56 boys, which included support and referrals to other psychosocial services. Young people in the project area are also in the process of re-enrolling for school. Moms continue to be supported by mother mentors on issues affecting their children and 127 men and 106 young men have attended twelve Men Engage meetings (MENs) in their communities.

The work continues to train church and community leaders, parents, community-based workers, peer educators and adolescent girls and boys on children’s rights. Youth are also trained in entrepreneurship and become eligible to receive small grants to establish a small business. Advocacy remains a key component for change.

As a member of the Anglican Communion, ZACOP is also supported by Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) in the United States, Anglican Board of Missions (ABM) in Australia and United Societies for Propagation of the Gospel (USPG) in the UK.