Young women leaders from eight African countries have asked governments in Southern Africa to amend and harmonise customary and com¬mon laws on child marriage and ensure that the age of marriage for boys and girls age of consent and age of majority is harmonised to age 18.
The request was made through a regional communiqué which was presented to president of Global Power Women Network for Africa, Thokozani Khupe, who is also the deputy Prime Minis¬ter of Zimbabwe at a two day dialogue in Nyanga, Zimbabwe, organised by Southern Africa HIV and Aids Information Dissemination Service (Safaids).
Before presenting the regional communiqué, Women's Lobby acting Executive Director Atupele Wirima, who represented Malawi at the event, said concerned with the continued violation of young women's sexual and reproductive health and rights, the young women have asked governments in the region to take action to stop the epidemic of sexual violence.
"Governments in the region should take action to stop the epidemic of sexual violence and impose stiff penalties for sexual violence offenders," she told the gathering. "Parents, teachers, and leaders should stop moralising on issues concerning sexuality edu¬cation and avail comprehensive and age appropriate, sexuality and sexual health information at home, in schools and communities."
The young women leaders also want governments to immediately avail and scale up youth-friendly, non-judgmental and non-discrim¬inatory services including access to contraceptives and safe abortion services to address teenage pregnancies which are reported to be rampant in the region.
In response Khupe promised the young women leaders that the communiqué will be presented to the leaders both at African Union and the United Nations.
"I want to thank the young women for coming up with the communiqué and I can assure you that it will be presented at the African Union and also at the United Nations on issues about women for action," she said.
The dialogue was organised with the aim of promoting a cul¬ture of open dialogue between young women and older women on the vulnerability of young women to sexual reproductive health issues.
It was also aimed at linking the local initiatives by young women on these issues with re¬gional and global initiatives to create common solutions to common challenges and identify strategies and develop a sustainable plan of action to address them.
The regional dialogue brought together over 100 participants from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and the hosts, Zimbabwe.