Zambia is seen as one of the more stable countries in Africa, but is also one of the more unequal. Over 40 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty and more than half of children under the age of five are malnourished.
Zambia has had a strong economic development for several years, partly due to the availability of copper. But the majority of the population living in poverty has not gotten better. It is most difficult for women to support their families because they are more often discriminated against in connection with divorce and inheritance.
The situation becomes more difficult when recurring droughts affect the harvests. It affects children severely: half of them under the age of five are chronically malnourished and just as many suffer from anemia. In addition, many children have lost their parents as a result of HIV and AIDS – more than half a million children are estimated to have been orphaned.
The fight against child marriage
Despite the fact that the number of child marriages has decreased by just over 25 percent, Zambia is one of the countries in the world with the most child marriages. It is mainly girls with poorer finances who live in rural areas and have a lower education who are at risk of getting married off. The Zambian government has launched a national campaign to stop the tradition of parents marrying off their children. The campaign contains a strategy to reduce and ultimately completely eliminate child marriage.
This is what Plan International does in Zambia
Plan International has worked to start school councils, so that students can participate and decide on matters that concern them. It is important to work specifically with children with disabilities to ensure that they can also participate.
We start child protection groups both in villages and larger regions, to strengthen children’s right to protection. Members of the groups can take courses in fundamental rights and in how to resolve conflicts and discuss various issues. The members also work to spread information about child protection in their communities. Plan International supports a national helpline that children and young people can call if, for example, they have been exposed to violence.
Plan International works to mobilize communities against child marriage. We involve traditional leaders in discussions about children’s rights and risks associated with child marriage. We also work with children and youth groups that actively try to stop child marriage.
Young people learn about safe sex
Poverty, inequality and harmful traditions are examples of why it can be so difficult for young people to gain sufficient knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health. But in Zambia, young people have started talking.
Talking about sex and cohabitation is often taboo in Zambia and few know their rights. It leads to child marriage, sexual violence and sex under duress. Plan International works to make more young people in Zambia aware that they have sexual and reproductive rights and to provide them with sufficient knowledge to be able to take care of themselves and their bodies.
– The project gives us young knowledge about how we can use the services available for reproductive health nearby. Our local leaders have begun to realize that young people must have access to sex education and now many of my friends can take part in the activities for their parents, says Thomas who participates in the project.
Plan International works together with several local organizations to remedy the traditions that stand in the way of young people’s opportunities and rights. We train new sexual counselors who work at youth clinics and provide healthcare staff with training in meeting young people. Plan International also works to ensure that politicians and other decision-makers prioritize young people’s sexual and reproductive health. Traditional and religious leaders have participated in seminars to discuss harmful traditions that involve major risks such as illness and child marriage.
The young people learn a lot and pass on the knowledge to their acquaintances. The fact that young people have safe sex has led to a reduction in sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies.
– Now we dare to discuss sex and cohabitation, and the project has given me more understanding of reproductive health and the rights we have. I want to work at a clinic in the future so that I can meet young people and help them understand how important this is, says Thomas.
Sexual and reproductive health
We need to talk about sexuality
I can now easily go and meet other young people and get advice and help if I need it. One of my friends is a counselor.
Mweemba, 20, from Central Province
The fact that many do not have the opportunity to make informed and informed decisions about their sexuality leads to many unwanted pregnancies. Plan International’s goal is for children and young people to be able to decide over their own bodies and make choices based on knowledge. A prerequisite is that sexuality can be discussed openly and that the young people know where they can seek help and advice if situations arise. That is why we have established meeting points where professional staff give advice to young people about their sexual health. Plan International’s work in the Central Province of Zambia has led to a fivefold increase in the number of young people seeking advice and support. This means that more young people can make informed decisions about their own health!
Independence with own income
I attended a vocational training in Mansa. Now I run my own shop as a tailor. I also teach other girls where I live to sew.
Carol, 22, from Luapula District
Through vocational training, girls gain important knowledge to create a better financial future. The education also deals with entrepreneurship and important issues such as leadership, girls’ rights and sexual health. About 615 girls now earn their own money through trade, breeding of chickens and goats, and handicrafts. By minimizing the economic gap between women and men, the risk of girls getting married is also minimized.
Facts about Zambia
Population: 17 million
Life expectancy: 62 years
Infant mortality rate: 22.2 per 1000 births
Proportion of children starting school: 84.1%
Proportion of women in parliament: 18%