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Child marriages still hunting Malawian young girls

WVM’s Director for Advocacy and Justice for Children Charles Gwengwe

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-World Vision Malawi (WVM) survey reveals that young girls continue to face various abuses including child marriages that are still rampant in the country.

This follows 266 surveys the organisation carried out in schools, health centres and WASH facilities in 191 communities on the quality of child protection services in the country.

According to citizen-generated data from the surveys, 42 per cent of girls marry before the age of 18.

The surveys also show that nine per cent of the girls are married by the age of 15. In terms of childbirth, 3 out of 4 girls have children before the age of 18 while 84 per cent of births are from child brides.

Speaking after presentation of the key evidence on Thursday, September 30, 2021, Parliamentary Chairperson for Women Caucus, Monica Chang’anamuno said the data shows reality on the ground and the need to revisit strategies of curbing the malpractices.

Chang’anamuno said, “Let me commend World Vision for doing this study because it has presented us with what the reality is on the ground. Sometimes we just talk about these issues in the offices, but we need such kind of studies because they give us hard evidence on what is happening.

“It is worrisome that up to today, we still have 42 percent of girls being married as children, and this is something that is giving us a headache that we need to do more than what we are doing right now”.

She added that apart from the involvement of the Ministry of Gender, the situation also demands concerted efforts from the ministries of Education, Labour and numerous other stakeholders.

“The other gap is also on perpetrators who marry these children because mostly, these issues are handled by traditional courts and magistrates that are there are of a lower level and mostly do not give stiffer penalties.

“Therefore,we need to work together with the judiciary so that when it comes to these issues, higher level magistrates should be involved so that they can be giving stiffer punishments,” Chang’anamuno said.

She, therefore,urged stakeholders to be giving feedback to the law makers on existing gaps in laws so that they may be rectified.

WVM Director for Advocacy and Justice for Children Charles Gwengwe said the survey generates data from the citizens themselves on issues directly affecting them.

“The citizen voice and action groups generate voices from the citizens themselves. It is a model that brings in citizen activism from the grass-root.

“We are now beginning to bring out these voices to the tables of policy makers, duty bearers and those designing different programs so that they can hear for themselves.

He added, “As you have seen, the percentage seems to be not changing despite quite a lot of investment; it is all because probably, we have not given space to the citizens themselves to tell us as to what they think are some of the infringements that are derailing our efforts to eliminate this malpractice”.

Gwengwe said the problems could still be occurring because implementation of planned interventions is not properly done.

For example, he mentioned the school readmission policy which sometimes faces problems when met with people, teachers, community members amongst others who have a negative bias on girls who are going back to school after giving birth.

“From the citizens themselves, we were able to understand that policies themselves, for example ‘Readmission Policy’ is a good one but the implementation in a community setting is quite problematic. In this sense, we really need to work on issues of discrimination and stigma,” he said.

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