Traditional leaders in Malawi’s estern district of Machinga are citing the high rate of early pregnancies and marriages as the major contributing factors towards the increasing rate of school dropout among adolescent girls in the district.
The chiefs voiced the concern during briefing session on Presidential Initiative on Safe motherhood and Maternal Health held at Nkhorowa and Msanama Health Centre which was convened by chairperson of the initiative Senior Chef Kwataine in the area of traditional authority (TA) Mlomba which pulled together 300 chiefs from the district.
“In one school 17 girls recently drooped from school because of pregnancies and we are meeting with parents, teachers and chiefs to see what we can do to ensure that our girls stay in school,” said TA Mlomba.
He however said the people and chiefs of Machinga are adhering to issues of safemotherhood through Presidential Initiative on Safe motherhood and Maternal Health to ensure that women don’t die during childbirth.
“For the first time in the history of this area the American Ambassador came here to officially open a waiting home behind this Nkhorowa health centre which was built with support of the Self Help Fund,” Mlomba said, adding: “for the first time in the history of Malawi chiefs are playing their rightful role to protect and serve their people and this is because of the good leadership of our President Joyce Banda by involving us in various programmes at grassroots level.”
He said although Machinga district is one of the densely populated districts in the country, it has successfully set up active safemotherhood committees that are lobbying for women to give birth in the hospital and not in the village using traditional birth attendants.
However, senior Chief Kwataine said it was sad that the increase in pregnancy and early marriage rate is happening among Yao people who he said have one of the best cultural practices like initiation ceremonies that help girls to be better educated on sexual practices.
“You must teach our girls the importance of staying in school, avoiding early pregnancy and early marriages, we are the best mentors for our people,” he said.
Kwataine also told traditional leaders that they have an important role to play in ensuring that they plan their families accordingly.
“It doesn’t make sense to have six children when you will not be able to give them a good education, you must educate your people at village level that they have the power to plan their families,” he said.