Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 55% of its population living below the poverty line. If we add climate change that affects the crops and the fact that it is a landlocked country, making the availability of material almost impossible, the situation is indeed tough for Zambia’s 18 million inhabitants.
- 64% of Zambia’s population lives in rural areas, where poverty is even more acute
- 25% of the population does not have access to clean water
- 76% of the population does not have access to safely managed and basic sanitation services
- HIV / AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis remain the greatest challenges for health in Zambia.
The Challenge of Childhood
One in five children in Zambia is orphaned due to AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis among other diseases. These children often live with their uncles or grandparents and unfortunately, often in conditions far below what is acceptable for a child.
According to Unicef, 40% of children suffer at least three deprivations at the same time (lack of access to nutrition, education, health, water, sanitation or adequate housing). They can even suffer up to four deprivations before the age of 5.
Due to malnutrition, 35% of children are stunted.
There are approximately 800,000 children who do not attend school. These children dedicate their time to helping at home and the small plantations that their family may have, or the family that has taken them in.
Because many children are not registered at birth, it is difficult to know exactly the numbers of children who do not attend school, who fall ill and even who do not reach the age of five.
To Be a Girl in Rural Zambia
The lack of education and marriage at an early age are two of the main challenges a young girl faces in Zambia.
Illiteracy is higher in women than in men and only 26% of girls make it to secondary school. This is due to poverty, pregnancies, and child marriages.
Zambia is currently the 16th country for child marriages worldwide. In rural areas, 6 out of 10 girls are at risk of being a child bride. For an orphan living in extreme poverty, marriage may seem like a salvation, and for many parents offering their girls to marry an older man may mean an exchange for the “lobola” or dowry.
Many young women get pregnant before their bodies are ready. They are more likely to contract illnesses such as AIDS, experience domestic violence, and even die in childbirth.
Education Can Break the Cycle!
Education can make a difference for girls, orphans and families in rural Zambia. These are some of the changes that can occur when education is provided to all:
- The development of skills and aptitudes
With better social, emotional, cognitive and communication skills, children are more likely to use their abilities and skills to develop important activities such as work, agriculture and respect and equality for women.
- The fight against inequality
When girls attend school, they can develop skills, acquire knowledge, and grow socially during their formative years. This lays the foundation for lifelong learning and a fairer society.
- The decrease in risk and vulnerability
As the old saying goes, “Knowledge is power”. Through learning young people acquire the skills to solve problems and move forward.
With education and learning come the skills and knowledge to help people move beyond poverty and subsistence farming. It teaches them to better articulate their needs in community meetings, to apply for jobs in nearby areas, to improve their own farming skills, to learn trades and to open up career possibilities in the immediate area and beyond. This not only helps the individuals but their communities as well, as they move beyond the restraints of their villages, growing and learning in the world beyond.