Tue, 15 Jun 2021

LUSAKA, May 7 (Xinhua) -- Siavonga is a well-known tourist town in Zambia with some of the most beautiful shores and breathtaking scenery.

Situated in the southern part of the country, the town is one of the places that come to many people's minds when they think of undertaking leisurely activities that include boat cruises and water tours on the famous lake Kariba, among others.

To the locals, however, Siavonga is a town that is riddled with a number of challenges that are driven mainly by high poverty levels resulting from limited livelihood opportunities.

Chief among these challenges confronting this tourist town is the growing number of teen pregnancies, a situation that has also contributed to high incidences of school dropout.

While the touristic nature of the town may have helped to provide employment opportunities for those in the tourism sector, it has also fueled teen pregnancies.

Residents of the town contend that travelers to Siavonga who are only looking to explore the place have also ended up impregnating young girls in this town and abandoned them.

It is said that these girls are then forced to drop out of school and seek solace in nightclubs and bars while others end up in marriages of convenience.

It is this very challenge that well-meaning residents like Mary Moonga aged 47 years, her friends Ruth Kubota aged 42 years, and 41-year-old Nailes Munga are working to address.

It has been a little over two years since the aforementioned trio embarked on work that is normally undertaken by well-resourced entities. This was after the town witnessed an increase in the number of girls falling pregnant and consequently dropping out of school.

"We believe that anyone can be an advocate of a good cause. One does not necessarily need to be an expert in education to appreciate the benefits thereof because they are there for all to see," said an enthusiastic Moonga.

Their work involves community education and sensitization activities centered on highlighting the benefits of encouraging girls to complete their secondary school education, which according to them, is key to eliminating high poverty in Siavonga.

They do this by engaging community members in conversations about girl child education through informal discussions which they conduct at public spaces such as trading places.

"We also use social spaces such as neighborhood meetings and religious gatherings to engage residents in peer-to-peer talks and group discussions about the plight of girls in our town," Moonga added.

Because of their work, a significant number of girls that had dropped out of school have since reenrolled and some teen mothers have demonstrated willingness to go back to school.

"Many residents now appreciate our work and have joined in to encourage girls to pursue their studies because they know that an educated girl has a lot to offer society," said Kubota.

Muga was however quick to admit that their work has not been without challenges in that some parents still insist on marrying off their girl children as they believe that it helps to lessen the burden of providing for a larger family.

"This is particularly true for very vulnerable families who even look forward to marrying off their girl children just so they can get the bride price," Munga lamented.

She revealed that her team is looking to formalizing their activities so as to enable them to properly document their work adding that the move would also encourage establishments to complement the work of the trio and render educational support to girls wishing to continue with school but lack resources.

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