Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara says men’s involvement in the upbringing and success of the girl child in education should be encouraged at all cost.
She said this in Parliament yesterday when women legislators commemorated the International Day of the African Child, which falls on June 16, but celebrations happen throughout the month of June.
Hara said: “Today, we dedicated this day to the girl child with me as a female Speaker of Parliament in the lead to send a strong message that everything is possible if they work hard.
“I am a believer that if we put men at the centre of promoting education for the girl-child, then we will win the fight. But if we do it alone as women, then our efforts will be in vain, so let men also believe in the capabilities of the girl child.”
The Speaker said her mother died when she was young and that it was her father who helped to mould her to where she is right now.
To commemorate the Day, female Cabinet ministers and members of Parliament (MPs) dressed in school uniforms as a way of advocating for the girl-child’s education.
Parliamentary Women’s Caucus chairperson Loney Chijere Phiri said yesterday was a special day because on June 16 they were preoccupied with some business.
She said the girl child faces several challenges, including pressure due to technological advancement where girls want the latest smartphones and designer clothes.
Phiri said: “These issues put pressure on the girl child and when her support is inadequate, they fall prey in the hands of men, get pregnant and fail to progress. This is why we are encouraging them to work hard in school to surmount the challenges.”
In the course of proceedings, MPs forced the Speaker to remove her parliamentary regalia to be in her school uniform.
Through First Deputy Speaker of Parliament Madalitso Kazombo, the legislators also forced Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonje and her deputy Madalitso Kambauwa-Wirima out of the House to put on school uniform to conform to the day’s theme.
Some male MPs also asked that they be allowed to put on school uniforms in solidarity.
Mwanza Central MP Nicholas Dausi (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) said male legislators were in support of the plight of the girl child.
Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati hailed the whole House for endorsing female MPs’ plan to wear school uniforms contrary to the dress code.
“This will go in our history books that for the first time, we have managed to break the jinx to wear the unique school uniform attire. We believe this gesture will motivate the girl child out there to succeed,” she said.
The Day of the African Child is celebrated annually on June 16 since 1991 when it was first designated by the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union, to honour school children who participated in the Soweto Uprising in South Africa in 1976.