NKURENKURU, 29 SEP (NAMPA) -
Girls should be protected against early sexual activities, early marriage and early pregnancies, the Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare says.
Doreen Sioka made the appeal when she addressed school children at Nkurenkuru in the Kavango West Region during the celebration of the Day of the Namibian Child on Monday.
The day was celebrated under the theme "25 Years after the adoption of the African Children's Charter: Accelerating our collective efforts to end child marriage in Namibia".
The event aims to celebrate the achievements of the Namibian child and to reflect on the challenges and gaps that still need to be addressed. Sioka said among the challenges identified, child marriage emerged as one that threatens the healthy development of children, hence the theme for this year's celebration.
The minister told the children that cultures and traditions in Africa are what give it a unique identity. "These two aspects define who Africans are, where they come from and why they behave in a certain way".
Sioka was, however, quick to point out that not all cultural beliefs and practices are always good. 'Child marriage is one of the cultural practices that are very bad for the African child," she said.
Sioka noted that in Namibia, child marriage incidents are hidden in villages and homesteads and because people are respectful of elders and loyal to cultures, these practices are allowed to happen. Amongst others, she said, child marriage violates the child's right to enjoy their childhood, violates their right to associate with other people, violates the privacy of the child, and violates the child's right to education.
Child marriage also exposes children to the dangers of early sexual activities, sexually-transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and early pregnancies. Teenage pregnancy is another great concern in Namibia. She indicated that statistics from the 2013 Demographic Health Survey highlights that 26 per cent of girls aged 18 years have started to bear children.
"This is worrying because this girl and her baby might find themselves both in need of care," said the minister.
These statistics also show that complications in pregnancies and childbirth are the leading causes of death for girls aged 15 to 19 years in developing countries.
"Infant deaths are 50 per cent higher among babies born to mothers under 20 years old than among those born to women in their twenties," Sioka said.