Malawi First Lady, Dr. Gertrude Mutharika, on Saturday urged girls to focus on education and avoid teenage pregnancies.
The First Lady made the call at an interface meeting with girls and other stakeholders at Ntcheu Secondary School. The meeting comes as one of her assignments in Malawi in her role as the President of the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV and AIDS (OAFLA), which she ascended to this past January.
Madame Mutharika, who is also patron of the Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM), said she was concerned with the increased number of girls being abused in different forms in the country.
“Girls continue to face various challenges in their day to day living and some of these challenges include forced and early marriages, rape, HIV and AIDS and these impact on them negatively as such they fail to grow and develop into their full potential,” Madame Mutharika said.
The First Lady then appealed for concerted efforts by all stakeholders such as nongovernmental organizations, traditional and religious leaders, girls, parents, and guardians to ensure that girls and young women are protected from various forms abuse.
She said most of the challenges which girls face in Malawi are also experienced by girls in many African countries and that girls besides other interventions should have high self-esteem and refrain from the influence of peer pressure.
“The vices of abusing girls’ rights are too many to cite. However, the most and common outcome is that girls drop out of school, get pregnant and deliver with complications which in some cases lead to fistula development and even death,” she said.
She then advised girls to persevere and work hard to perform well in class for them to have better future and become productive citizens of the country.
She assured girls in the country that she would soon intensify interacting with disadvantaged girls to assess their needs to come up with better assistance and interventions with the goal of promoting girls to be educated.
“The Beautify Malawi initiative is supporting about 6000 students in different educational institutions, and I will continue with this to ensure that more girls are supported,” Madame Mutharika said.
Participants at the meeting also heard testimonies and viewed presentations on early marriage and sexual abuse; the role of girls in ending teenage pregnancies, and child marriages; and the role of traditional leaders in advocating for rights of girls and young women in their communities.
Before the meeting, Madame Mutharika toured the Ntcheu FPAM Clinic where she was briefed on the services that are offered at the clinic. Later she toured pavilions displays of different organizations’ activities that are being implemented to promote reproductive health and youth friendly health services.
Edited By: Maravi Post Senior Editor