Malawi is ranked in the top 20 for having highest rate of child marriages, with 50 per cent of girls marrying before they reach 18 years- old, putting the country at number five of the hotspots countries.
The revelation was made on Tuesday during the first ever national symposium in Addressing Child Marriage in Malawi which was funded by Hivos at Sun and Sands Holiday Resort in Mangochi.
The symposium was attended by religious leaders, chiefs, members of parliament, non-governmental organizations, and journalists.
In her presentation, the programme officer of Hivos Southern Africa Regional Office Rebecca MaLlunge said some of the factors which has led to the country child marriage is that girls are generally perceived as ‘inferior’ marriage materials, weak, unwise and unequal to boys and men.
“These beliefs per perpetuate attitudes where girls are regarded as commodities thereby escalating their abuse through cultural justification and acceptance,” she said.
MaLlunge said in Malawi women and girls sexual and reproductive health rights are seriously compromised
Consequences of child marriage
MaLlunge emphasized that there are many consequences of child marriage which can affect Malawian girls if not attended to.
For instance, she mentioned consequences like psychological trauma which is associated with isolation, and violence from husband or his family.
MaLlunga also reminded the nation through her presentation that Often child, once married are reduced to being domestic slaves.
The presentation went on to states that another consequences of child marriage is Physiological where as girls bodies are not fully mature, they pose a great risk of maternal and infant mortality.
“Girls between 10 and 14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-14.”
She also lamented that the lack of education means girls often lacking knowledge about sexual relations, their bodies and reproduction, exacerbated by the cultural silence.
MaLlunge said this denies the girls control of their lives and have limited or no ability to make informed decisions/ choices about any aspect of their lives.
MaLlunge said as one way of addressing child marriage in Malawi they have lined up a number of programs seeks to influence is to stop child marriages in generation, in line with the global movement by promoting the rights of girls to choose their future destiny.
Through the programme, the ultimate intention is that Malawian girls marry after reaching 18 years of age and do so through informed choices.
“To achieve this, the vision of the programme is therefore a Malawi society that respects, promotes protects the rights of girls. Within this broad scope, it is the intention of the programme to contribute to change where young women in Malawi are empowered socially and psychologically so that they have opportunities for full development and are able to participate fully as citizens through informed choices,” she said.
MaLlunge emphasized that the programme will engage strategic partners at all levels like law and policy makers, gate keepers such as religious, traditional and community leaders, parents and guardians for such children, peers and other siblings likeminded Civil Society Organizations.
During the proceedings of the symposium, girls took government and members of parliament to task on why they make some laws which concern them without consultations.
Loveness Phiri from Sisters Leading Malawi Organization quizzed MPs who graced the symposium on why they went ahead to formulate age marriage age without even consulting girls.
“Ia m 24 year’s old but to my surprise government and our Mps did everything behind the curtains without asking us (girls). It is high time they start consulting the affected groups rather than going behind us. It could have been proper for our Mps to consult girls before making any laws on marriage age,” said Loveness.
Some of the MPs, who were present during the symposium like Jean Sendeza from Malawi Congress Party and Chimango Mughogho from Peoples Party agreed with Loveness concerns that it could have been wise to incorporate girls before coming up with the marriage age.
Echoing Loveness sentiments was Jane Mwasiya, who lobbied government to review the marriage age again by going back to affected group (girls) for further consultations.
For instance, Sendeza said girls could have the right target to states on what age they want to be allowed to get into marriage.
The symposium which was funded by Hivos was organized by Youth Net and Counseling inconjuction with the ministry of gender.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :