Girls Empowerment Network (Genet) has rolled out a project to support young girls in Phalombe to fight against child marriages and gender inequality.
Last week, Genet organised a five-day girls camp where 210 girls aged between 15 and 17 from nine villages in Traditional Authority Chiwalo were trained in gender issues and child rights to motivate them to achieve more in future.
Speaking in an interview on Friday during the closing ceremony at Phalombe Secondary School, Genet project coordinator Yamikani Banda said this was a second cohort of 410 girl leaders they are working with in the district.
She said: “Through this project, we identified these girl leaders who will form clubs in their areas where they will be acting as ambassadors against child marriages by engaging parents and encouraging teen mothers to go back to school.
“From here, they will go through a six-month training to be equipped with issues to do with human rights and education for their smooth operation and to help them achieve their goals in life.”
Phalombe district commissioner Gossam Mafuta encouraged girls to continue with education, stressing that poverty should not be an excuse.
He bemoaned increased cases of child pregnancies, saying most girls fail to proceed with their education after passing Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) examinations as they become reckless during the holidays.
On his part, group village head Chiwalo warned counsellors in initiation camps to desist from pushing young girls into sex.
“If any counsellor encourages you to actively participate in sex when you leave their initiation camps, report to chiefs, village development committees and child protection officers,” he said.
The four-year project dubbed Enabling Girls to Advance Gender Equity (Engage), is being funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.