Senior Chiefs in Malawi want government to push through Parliament a bill that will make the marriage age to shift to 21 from 15 in order to rescue many girls who are being forced into early marriages.
The senior chiefs spoke this at Sun and Sand Holiday Resort in Mangochi during a two day meeting titled, ‘Ending Child Marriages for Southern Region Symposium which was organized by Youth Net and Counselling (Yoneco) and Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) Malawi with funding from HIVOS.
The traditional leaders unanimously agreed that child marriage often leads to a lifetime of abuse for girls.
They said ending child marriage should be a priority and suggests that it should be tackled not as a single incident of abuse, but in relation to other example of discrimination and violence against women and girls.
Paramount Lundu questioned Members of Parliament decision to propose for 15 years as marriage age stating it as selfish on their part.
“We want parliament to discuss the age marriage issue during their first meeting after the elections because we feel this issue is not being taken seriously,” said Malemia.
Lundu also emphasasized the need to seek girls’ views since they are the ones affected.
Senior T/A Chitera said they want a girl child to have an opportunity of good education before entering into marriage.
“Most of the girls are being forced to marry because of the 15 years old age marriage. We need to do something before sending many of our girls to an early grave yard. At 15 years a girl is not ready for marriage and instead these people end up being abused,” she said.
Chitera said in her area she doesn’t tolerate any girl child to marry at an age of 15.
“If a parent is found forcing her child to marry at a tender age she/he is bound to be punished. It is either he is asked to pay a goat as a fine or a father being asked to mop at health centre daily,” she said.
Some of the chiefs, who echoed their colleagues sentiments were Senior T/A Chikumbu and Kawinga.
In her remarks, HIVOS Programme Officer Rebecca Mahlunge said the meeting was all about commitment towards the practical solution to child marriages at regional and district levels.
Mahlunge said in their last meeting on child marriage which was conducted last year it was discovered that many Malawians were forcing their girls into early marriages and that in this year’s meeting they wanted to access whether there was any progress on the commitments which were made.
“We heard from various people on the commitment which we made last year. You heard it yourself from Chiefs that they feel the age marriage be put at 21, and it is up to our MPs and government to do something,” she said.
Mahlunge said it was observed after the symposium that the delay of the law is hindering the success in ending early marriage.
“We need to value the life of girls and how they contribute to the social and economic development. There is need to educate the boy child on the appreciation of the girl child life .Lets come up with practical solutions as a region towards child marriages,” she concludes.
Youth-NET and Counseling Board chairman Prof. Dixie Maluwa Banda said the fight of child marriages is touching on mindsets and attitudes of people in the community.
“Let’s put ourselves in the shoe of the common man in our communities who might not appreciate the need to work on the child marriages i.e the uncles and aunties who force their children into marriage,” he said.
Director of Social Services in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare Willard Manjolo said Child marriages is complex but needs collective responsibility
He said Government have instituted laws i.e. Prevention of the Domestic Violence Act 2016 but there is no significant case studies that have been presented; there has been Branding of Child Protection issues (Billboards) but there is need for people to narrate.
“The focus should be focused on strengthening community structures that are addressd in the issues of child marriages. Let’s put special emphasis on working with local leaders, religious leaders and community structure,” he said.
He also stressed that there is need to create awareness on the stalled progress in addressing the issues affecting the girl child.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :