Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Wednesday challenged citizens to become actively involved in the fight against child marriages, teenage pregnancies and gender-based violence.
These are practices which "undermine the participation of women and girls in the development of the country", he said, at the opening of the Fifth National Summit on Good Practices for implementing the Southern African Protocol on gender and development.
"We know there is no single remedy to halt this problem", said Nyusi. "We must work against it together. The work is collective and so we appeal to everyone to make a contribution to the fight against these evils, which damage not only children but also society".
"In this meeting", he continued, "we want to share our experiences on the good practices which help eliminate the bad attitudes which continue to destroy the participation of women and girls in the economic and social life of the country".
The President said the incidence of child marriage is still worrying, but the phenomenon is on the decline, which is encouraging "since it allows us to glimpse a better future for Mozambican girls".
"Child marriage is a gross violation of the rights of girls", he stressed, lamenting that Mozambique is still on the list of countries with the highest numbers of child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
The fight against gender-based violence and child marriage is among the key objectives of the Mozambican government, he added.
Nyusi stressed the need to update the law in order to eliminate child marriage. The Mozambican Family Law states that the marriage age is 18, but has a large loophole, in that people aged between 16 and 18 can marry, with parental consent. Marriage of girls under the age of 16 is entirely illegal - but it is still tolerated, particularly in rural areas in the northern and central provinces.
Campaigners for gender equality have been demanding that the Mozambican parliament, he Assembly of the Republic, amend the law so as to outlaw any marriage under the age of 18.
The First Lady, Isaura Nyusi, who has played a prominent role in the campaign against child marriage, said the meeting was an opportunity to reaffirm the commitment to eliminate the practice. She pointed out that Mozambique is ranked in tenth place in the list of countries where child marriage is common.
Child marriage, she said, contributes to girls dropping out of school, and increases the risks of infant and maternal mortality.
Isaura Nyusi wanted to relaunch campaigns against the transmission of HIV from pregnant women to their unborn children, and to raise the awareness of households and of local leaders about the need to combat child marriage and all other practices which contribute to increases gender inequalities and damage the future of girls.