District Social Welfare Officer (DSWO) for Neno, Paul Sosono has called for concerted efforts from all partners in the district to win the battle against child marriages and teen pregnancies.
Sosono was speaking on Friday during a stakeholders meeting on ending child marriages and harmful practices including gender-based violence through a youth policy advocacy project to be implemented in the district with support from Parents and Child Health Initiative (PACHI) in partnership with UNICEF.
He said the eight months project will help to reduce incidences of child marriages, as it will complement government efforts in eradicating child marriages and harmful practices in the district which are still prevalent.
“The project has a component of advocacy which will assist the district to have reduced incidences of child marriages and gender-based violence as it will increase awareness on the same,” he said.
Sosono said Neno as a district is moving in a positive direction as data on child marriages shows a sharp decrease.
“In 2017 the district registered 698 cases of child marriages, 248 cases were reported in 2019 and 49 cases were registered in 2022 which is a positive development,” he said.
He, however, said the district is registering more cases centering on child pregnancies where people have shifted from marrying children but just impregnating them.
Sosono said in 2020, about 200 cases of child pregnancies were recorded at the district hospital, an indication that men are not marrying children but just impregnating them.
He said the project will work with all partners including chiefs, religious leaders, and all entities working towards ending child marriages.
Neno District Council Chairperson, Mark Ngwangwa welcomed the project, saying it will help to reduce teenage pregnancies which are rampant in the district.
Village Head Mlauli said chiefs in the district have formulated bylaws to help eliminate child marriages as they penalize children together with their parents, saying this has helped to reduce cases of child marriages.
The eight months project will be implemented in all four traditional authorities in the district.