Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Jean Kalilani says sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) remains one of the serious threats to education, health and safety of girls in the country.
The minister made the remarks on Friday at Kabwinja Primary School in Dowa during a community campaign on combating SGBV in schools.
Kalilani also said government and its stakeholders have intensified efforts to eliminate all forms of violence among women and girls.
“There is evidence that violence against girls takes place in households, communities, schools and more specifically on the way to and from school. This has to be addressed to close the gender gap in education currently favouring boys,” she said.
Kalilani said she was particularly happy that non-governmental organisations are ganging up to complement government efforts to address the vice.
Oxfam deputy country director Lingalireni Mihowa said they are also addressing factors that affect girls’ continuation in schools like early marriage and pregnancies, domestic care burdens, being providers in the home in case of single parents or child headed families and the attitudes in some families of not prioritising educating girls as compared to boys education.
She said negative harmful traditional practices such as forced and early marriages, sexual rituals practised during initiation ceremonies (that encourages early sexual debut for adolescents) promote the dropping out of school, especially among adolescent girls and often exposes them to a level of psychosocial and physical violence.
The awareness campaign was organised by Oxfam in conjunction with Comic Relief and Girls Empowerment Network (Genet) to sensitise communities to the need to combat sexual and other violence in schools with the aim of keeping girls (and boys) safe and enabling them to learn better. n