Malawi girls detest marriage law: Push for a review

Pressure Is mounting on Malawi government authorities to revisit the country’s laws that allow young girls to get married at the age of 16 and also allow them to marry at the age of 15 with parental consent.

The latest pressure is from a local NGO Girl’s Empowerment Network (GENET) which has described the law as “unfriendly to girls.”

The organization’s communications adviser, Joyce Mkandawire told reporters in Malawi’s commercial capital Blantyre on Wednesday  that the legislation is contributing highly towards the increase in school drop-out rate of girls especially in rural areas.

“One of the challenges which we have come across as an organisation is that our law is not friendly to the girls.  There is a deliberate action on the law to end child marriage,” she said.

Jean Kaira a senior resident magistrate in Zomba, was the guest of honour

Jean Kaira a senior resident magistrate in Zomba, was the guest of honour

Girls posing with their role model Mtimaukanena

Girls posing with their role model Mtimaukanena

The organizations communications adviser, Joyce Mkandawire speaking to reporters

The organizations communications adviser, Joyce Mkandawire speaking to reporters

Mtimaukanena in boxing demo with her coach

Mtimaukanena in boxing demo with her coach

The girls in dancing competition

The girls in dancing competition

She asked the government to revisit the laws by taking a leaf from Traditional Authority Chitera in southern district of Chiradzulu, who through a project by the organisation, has instituted by-laws in her area which only allow girls to get married from the age of 21.

“In the past we were told that there were high levels of school drop-out there, but I can proudly say to you now that in TA Chitera we have received reports that there is high school retention rate among girls and most of them are returning to school. Four years ago we were told girls were marrying each day but now with the law that is protecting them, girls just don’t walk into marriage,” she said.

Mkandawire was speaking during the official opening of the first ever Girls Sports Conference 2013 which GENET has organized at Blantyre Youth with financial support from Girlup through Public Health Institute.

According to the organisers, the conference which has drawn adolescent girls from Blantyre and Chiradzulu districts   aims to create a platform for girls and young women to discuss critical issue that affect their lives.

The event whose theme is “Girls in Action : Empowering Adolescent Girls to be Agents of Change” has attracted the country’s prominent figures including female parliamentarians and lawyers who would act as role models for the girls and inspire them to discover their own strength leadership abilities and potential to become strong and independent women.

In her speech Jean Kaira a senior resident magistrate in Eastern city of Zomba, who was the guest of honour encouraged girls to be focused to achieve their goals.

“I believe that girls can bring a change if they make a decision to challenge the status quo. And not only that, if they consider themselves to be brave enough, and equal to men they can also bring a change,” she said.

One of the girls, Katherine Kita from Blantyre said she hopes to learn from the challenges which the role more model had gone through so that she should also prepare to face them head-on to succeed.

The event was flavored with dancing competition, boxing demonstration by Malawi’s female boxer Agness Mtimaukanena and other sporting activities by the girls themselves.

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