Child Abuse Institutionalized in Malawi: Children Forced to Work Late Nights Selling Goods
Children aged 7 to 10 in Mchezi are selling goods in bars along the Lilongwe-Salima road, despite the cold weather at night-Meclina Chirwa.
Malawi - Despite being in the midst of a chilly night, children between the ages of seven and ten in Mchezi can still be found selling various merchandise in drinking joints along the Lilongwe-Salima road, writes Meclina Chirwa.
These children are meant to be comfortably tucked in bed, but instead, they are braving the cold and selling their products to drunkards, thugs, and commercial sex workers.
This is the norm for children in Mchezi and almost every area across Malawi.
“Innocently, the children have accepted that this is their way of life. They have to take care of their families,” says a report by the Malawi Multidimensional Poverty Index.
These children, despite their poverty, do not realize they are exposed to many cases of abuse.
They spend their time from morning to midnight selling their products at the markets, and they lack basic necessities such as access to clean water, food, clothing, and other essential needs.
The children are at the mercy of their guardians, who are expected to protect their rights at the household level but are often the major culprits perpetuating the abuse.
“We come here each and every day selling tomatoes, onions, and some stuff just to earn a living. We come early in the morning up to midnight, we just sleep for a few hours,” says a ten-year-old girl.
While the children seem to labour in vain, they still have ambitions.
“When I finish my education I want to be a nurse or an inspector general of police to provide maximum security to the nation,” says one of the kids.
However, they face abuse from their guardians, who force them into nocturnal errands.
Child rights activist Amos Chibwana says that such parents and guardians who abuse their children in the name of poverty should be traced and punished.
“We have to know that we have our legal instruments, the child care protection and justice act which stipulates that parents are responsible for their children by providing safety and care for their children. It is very unfortunate that some parents are still sending their children to sell different merchandise at the market during late hours which is very unfair. In this case, the government should enforce laws by punishing such kind of parents,” he explained.
Deputy Director in the Department of Child Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Justin Hamela, also admitted that the government is widely responsible for the protection of children’s rights and there is a need to enforce punitive laws to such irresponsible parents and guardians.
Poverty affects almost every Malawian leading to severe shortfalls in most human needs. The Malawi Multidimensional Poverty Index report of 2021 showed that 61.7 percent of Malawi's population is multidimensionally poor, while the intensity of poverty is 54.6 percent.
Every year, June 16, the African continent and the whole world at large commemorate the day of the African child with the aim of addressing the numerous challenges that children are facing in Africa.
The 2022 theme was eliminating harmful practices affecting children.
Children rights need to be safeguarded including protection from activities that may harm or injur them.