Initiative Launched in Malawi to Combat Rising Trend of Child Marriages in Mzimba District
Child marriage is a serious issue in Malawi, where it is estimated that around 50% of girls are married before the age of 18.
Malawi: Child marriage is a serious issue in Malawi, where it is estimated that around 50% of girls are married before the age of 18, writes Alinafe Sambo.
This is often driven by poverty, as families may see marriage as a way to financially provide for their daughters or as a means of securing a dowry. Child marriage can also be motivated by cultural or traditional practices.
The consequences of child marriage are severe and can include an interruption of education, poor health outcomes, and an increased risk of domestic violence.
Girls who are married at a young age are also more likely to experience complications during pregnancy and childbirth, which can lead to serious health problems or even death.
Malawi has made efforts to address the issue of child marriage through legislation, such as the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, which sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 for both boys and girls.
However, implementation of these laws has been a challenge, and more needs to be done to address the root causes of child marriage and provide support for girls who are at risk or have already been married.
In the meantime, Youth Net and Counseling in Malawi has launched an initiative to combat the pervasive issue of child marriages in Mzimba district.
Despite efforts by NGOs and the government, child marriages have continued to rise in Mzimba.
Karen Nyirenda, a girl rescued from marriage by the organization, said she was forced into marriage due to the difficult circumstances at home.
"My grandmother couldn't take care of me and my siblings because there was no one to help us. Most of the time we went to bed hungry," she said.
The executive director for Yoneco in Rumphi district, George Mbizi, aims to reduce the rate of child marriages in TA Mtwalo by 50% within three years through awareness campaigns with parents and children on the importance of education.
Child marriages have caused numerous problems in the community, including the loss of young girls' lives and a high level of illiteracy in the country.
Martha Nyirongo, for example, dropped out of school at 13 when her parents divorced.
"After my parents separated, I stayed with my dad and his new wife, who mistreated me and even beat me. I was tired of that, so I thought getting married would be a way to escape all the troubles," she said.
However, the program has already made a positive impact in the community, according to village headman Kachacha.
He said the program has allowed girls to make their own decisions and has reduced the number of premature deaths in the district.