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Poverty and slow implementation of legal framework, hampering the end child marriage campaign in Malawi

Gender Minister Jean Kalilani

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)- Low income levels in most families and slow implementation strategies, are said to be hampering the end child marriage campaign in Malawi, it has been established.

Research after research, the two vices are listed as the prime attributes to the continuing practice of child marriage. If not checked in time with comprehensive approaches, the fight against the vice will be a farfetched dream.

The observation was made during the high level panel discussion, hosted by Action Aid Malawi ?on Friday evening?.

The aim of the event was to strengthen strategies to end child marriage in Malawi.

The discussions attracted the United Nations Resident Representative, Minister of Gender, Chairperson of Parliamentary Women Caucus, CSOs, Senior Chief Kachindamoto, and a representative from one of the girls’ advocacy forum.

On poverty, young girls from low-income families are said to be subjected to pressure to get married as a source of income for her family.

Even those that reach secondary school education, after school when they are unable to attained tertiary education due to exorbitant tuition fees for their studies, end up coaxed by men into premarital sex for survival.

Gender Minister Jean Kalilani told the gathering that Government was making head way with the implementation strategies in enforcing the laws to address child marriage.

Kalirani therefore advised the young to keep on abstain from premature sex, be faithful to their partners and use condom. These are the only prevention measures to early pregnancies that lead to child marriage.

During the panel discussion, the visiting Action Aid International e Chairpeson Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda pledged to raise US$50,000 by December this year. The funds will be channelled towards economic empowerment girl child in Africa.

Senior Chief Kachindamoto of Dedza district, recipient of numerous international award for her fight against child marriages in her area, challenged stakeholders to invest more in girl-child education.

Chief Kachindamoto observed that if girls aren’t empowered economically while young, the campaign will not achieve anything.

“I am doing a lot work of pushing girls to go to school. But most families ask me to give them money for their children for fees after primary school. This drives me back on the campaign. Unless these young girls are economically empowered, coupled with mindset change, it will be a tall order to address the vice,” she said.

“We need to invest much in girls, starting while they are young. Most poor families are subjected to this crime that young girls have no choice but to engage in early sex debut for survival. There is also a need for massive campaign on the matter across Malawi,” urged Kachindamoto.

On the legal framework, there is the lack of implementation strategies on child rights protection laws that most perpetrators of the vice, are taking advantage of the loopholes and marrying young girls.

For instance in February this year, Malawi Parliament amended the Constitution on the legal marriage age from 15 to 18 years; however, most Malawians are not aware of the law change.

“We have made critical reviews of our laws on gender, child rights, particularly girls and women, but the challenge has been implementation strategies of the law, to trickle down to the masses to appreciate these changes.

“This is not a task for one arm of Government, the legislature but rather the entire nation. The Women caucus in Parliament through its membership, has been conducted civic education at constituent level on the law, but this is not enough. We need the executive arm of Government to put a comprehensive implementation strategy over gender and child right protection laws,” Jessie Kabwira, Chairperson of Parliamentary Women Caucus, said.

Kabwira is also the current Women President for SADC Parliamentary Forum.

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