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Minister dares NGOs, others on girls’ projects

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Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati, has asked organisations championing the rights of girls in the country to make sure they keep their projects running if the country is to record zero teen pregnancies and child marriages by 2030 in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Kaliati was speaking in Mzuzu on Wednesday on the sidelines of the commemorations of the International Day of the Girl Child which falls on October 11.

According to Kaliati, the fight against child marriages and teen pregnancies is a continuous process; hence organisations whose projects on girls’ empowerment are winding up should consider lobbying for extensions from their donors.

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Her remarks come at a time a five-year project ‘Marriage no child’s play’ being implemented by Girls Empowerment Network (Genet), Youth Net and Counselling and Save the Children in nine districts of the country ends this December.

Kaliati’s plea to the organisations also comes against the background of reports that the country has registered a record high teen pregnancies and child marriages due to the Covid-19 pandemic this year.

“We have empowered the District Education Committee, Village Development Committees and Mother Groups, among others, who are working closely with organisations and other partners. But we also have the cash-transfer programme through which we are assisting our girls so that they should not be forced into marriage,” the minister said.

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Genet Executive Director Faith Phiri, whose organisation’s impact area is Nkhata Bay, said they have already started lobbying various donors to have the project extended.

Phiri said her organisation still needs a lot of investments in girls so that the country should register a considerable change as far as protecting the girls is concerned.

“In some Traditional Authorities, we have even registered zero child marriage cases and in others, just few of them. All this is because of the work that we have done, empowering the girls, using our girl-centred approach, letting the girls lead in their respective communities,” Phiri said.

A recent study by the Ministry of Gender found that over 20,000 girls fell pregnant between March and August this year when schools were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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