Graça Machel Visits Zambia

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Zambia announces the visit of one of the world’s leading advocates for women and children’s rights, Mrs. Graça Machel, to Zambia from the 20th to the 22nd June, 2017.

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During her three-day visit, Mrs. Machel is scheduled to meet with top Government officials, Members of Zambia’s National Assembly, Civil Society Organizations, United Nations Agencies, young people and the media to advocate and engage on an array of children issues, spanning from ending child marriage to supporting adolescent health rights.

The advocacy drive comes against Zambia’s background of the highest child marriage rates in the world, with 31 per cent of 20-24 year old females married by the age of 18. The practice constitutes a grave violation of the rights of girls and threatens their health, education and future prospects.

In Zambia child marriage is often a result of limited access to education, teenage pregnancy, limited opportunities for meaningful employment and poverty and violence in the homes. In response to the challenges of child marriage, the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) through a cabinet directive in 2013 prioritized ending child marriage nationwide.

Further, the visit of Mrs Machel will seek to amplify support on sexual and reproductive health rights for adolescents. “Mrs. Machel’s visit to Zambia has come at an opportune time,” said the Minister of Health, Dr. Chilufya Chitalu.

“It coincides with the efforts of the Government of the Republic of Zambia through the Ministry of Health to plan for the implementation of the new HIV and AIDS strategic Framework and the new Adolescent Health Strategy both adopted and signed in May 2017. With Zambia’s HIV prevalence among adolescent girls in Zambia declining at a slow pace, we look forward to the dialogue with Mrs. Machel and meaningful engagement with young people on adolescent programming.”

Recent studies by the Graça Machel Trust (GMT) on reproductive, maternal, child and adolescent health undertaken by the Trust in Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, have identified women, children and adolescents as priority beneficiaries for accelerating the attainment of SDGs.

Improved health infrastructure, greater health financing and improved social accountability for Reproductive, Maternal Newborn and Child Health and nutrition were also identified as priority issues of focus if Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania are to reach their SDG goals.

“We are heartened by the strides that the Zambian government has made in making services available to women across Zambia” said Mrs. Machel. “However, if we are to reduce maternal and child mortality rates and bring down infection rates, we need government, the private sector, and civil society organizations to work together to drive access to information and services for women and adolescents whether they live in the cities or in the rural areas of Zambia.”

UNICEF Representative, Dr. Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim said: “UNICEF Zambia’s current adolescent programming aims to contribute to a reduction in the rates of HIV infection, child marriage, sexual abuse and physical violence among adolescents. It is our aim that Mrs. Machel’s visit boosts advocacy and political will to invest and take action in adolescent programming and meaningful engagement.”

Source: allafrica.com

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