Cases of early and child marriages have significantly dropped with the country recording a four percent reduction rate following a 2015-2016 Lekeni (Stop) campaign, government has said.
Minister of gender, children, disability and social welfare Dr Jean Kalilani said this on Tuesday in Lilongwe during a press briefing on the current situation of child marriages in the country.
Despite this development, Kalirani cautioned the nation not to be contented saying the current four percent reduction rate is not enough for Malawi.
“We still have a big job to do because the only acceptable situation is to have zero cases of child marriages.
“That is why in collaboration with the United Nations ,we have this second phase of the Lekeni mass media campaign launched three weeks ago to further propagate that children should not be driven into early and forced marriages,” said Kalilani.
The Lekeni campaign, implemented by the Malawi government, is aimed at informing the masses of the dangers of child marriages.
A Millennium Development Goal (MDG) End Line Survey revealed that in Malawi, one out of two girls is married before the age of 18 and further estimates that one in every five teenage girls is in a formal marriage with four percent of them in an informal union.
Kalilani attributed the prevalent cases of child marriages in Malawi to high poverty levels, high illiteracy levels among parents and harmful cultural beliefs and practices such as initiation ceremonies that expose children to sex and exploitation by adults at a tender age.
She also highlighted other factors like slow dissemination of legal and policy instruments and long distances to and inadequate sanitation facilities for adolescent girls in school as other forces behind this challenge.
Kalilani said issues of child marriages in Malawi have violated the right to education, good health and childhood for girls.
As a counter measure, she said government has developed and is implementing a number of strategies to combat child marriages and other gender inequalities.
These include popularizing and implementing various laws such like the Gender Equality Act (2013); Child Care, Protection and Justice Act (2010); Trafficking in Persons Act (2015) and the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act (2015).
“Malawi has shown political will at the highest level and this government will continue with its sustained campaign to end harmful cultural practices and social norms,” Kalilani said.