Call for laws that protect girls and women in Malawi sounded: International Women’s Day commemoration

Stakeholders in Malawi commemorated International Women’s Day on Friday and called for the implementation of laws that protect girls and women’s rights in order to tackle teenage marriages and promote women empowerment interventions in the country.

Malawi joined the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day

The commemorations were held at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Malawi’s Capital Lilongwe, drawing together Oxfam Malawi, Plan Malawi, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and girls from various schools and colleges to discuss issues that negatively affect girls and women’s progress.

In his remarks, Program Manager for Women’s Rights at Oxfam Malawi, Dr Anthony Malunga, observed that the country has in place good pieces of legislation and policies in promotion of girls and women’s welfare, a development, he said, is a success story.

Among others, the laws and policies include; Gender Policy, Gender Equality Act, Family and Divorce Law and Domestic Violence Law.

However, Dr Malunga noted that there is lack of awareness of these laws and that they are not being fully enforced or not implemented at all, leading to continued abuse of girls and women in the country.

“Defilement cases and violence against women are still on the rise in Malawi. What we need, as a country, is just a matter of political will and seriousness to enforce the laws and policies we have. Otherwise, all these problems could be history,” he said.

Malunga added that Malawi needs to do away with harmful cultural practices that impinge on the rights and progress of girls and women.

Taking her turn, Head of Programs at Plan Malawi, Phoebe Kasoga, emphasized that the country needs to end teenage marriages, noting that this is the major contributing factor to girls failure in life.

In fact, early marriages, largely influenced by poverty and harmful cultural practices, are believed to be perpetuating poverty in Malawi because they are unnecessarily increasing the country’s population, leading to scramble for social services.

Statistics show that the rate of early marriages in Malawi is at 42 percent, a figure much higher than that of Sub Saharan Africa which is at 37%.

According to the Ministry of Gender, Disability, Children and Social Welfare, 7% of girls in the country get married before the age of 18 as compared to only 1.2% of their male counterparts.

“We need to continue with interventions that promote girls and women in all aspects of life and that encourage them to fully participate at all levels of undertakings in society,” said Kasoga.

Deputy Head of DFID, Anthea Kerr, conquorred with Kasoga, adding that stakeholders also need to intesify interventions that pro-actively empower girls and women.

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