Parents forcing girls to marry in exchange of sugar

Some parents are forcing girls  to enter into marriage  in Chinkhwawa district  in the southern part of Malawi in exchange of a bale of sugar especially in the areas of  Konzere and Phanda. This was learnt  during the monitoring and evaluation on UNJPAG which was conducted by Youth Net and Counseling (Yoneco)  with support from UNFPA.

The UNJPAG project mainly works with adolescent girls on issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights in ensuring that there is access to SHR services and at the same time ensuring that the girls are aware of their health rights.

YONECO Project Officer Hughes Munthali said through the project, adolescent girls especially those that dropped out of school due to early and unwanted pregnancies are encouraged to return and stay in school following the government’s return to school policy.

Munthali said the monitoring visit focused on assessing whether there are concerted efforts at community level to ensure that adolescent girls are being supported to access SRH services and remain in school.

Womens Group at Konzere under UNJPAG....Photo Yoneco
Womens Group at Konzere under UNJPAG….Photo Yoneco

During the monitoring and evaluation meeting which was done on Wednesday when YONECO met mother groups and PTA’s  , a number of issues were raised  like girls being forced to get married in exchange with a bale of sugar.

Group Village Headman Konzere said it was unfortunate that many parents in the district of Chinkhwawa are forcing their girl child into marriage in exchange of  a bale of sugar.

Konzere said as chiefs they will not tolerate such a behavior because such girls are even told to drop out of school  in order to concentrate on their marriage.

“This is a shameful act and we have examples of  young girls who have been forced into marriage avoid the man brings a bale of sugar. As chiefs we need to implement a policy in order to restrict such a behavior,” he said.

He however, hailed YONECO for the UNJPAG project and urged them to continue with it.

“This project is bearing fruits because a part from unearthing this behavior of forcing girls into marriage in exchange of a bale of sugar, it has brought back more than 20 girls back to school in my village,” he said.

Twenty girls from Konzere Village, who dropped out of school due to early and unwanted pregnancies are back to school with some waiting for the Junior Certificate and  Malawi School Certificate of Education exams.

Chipping in was Mary Sole, from Konzere Village, who described UNJPAG project as  an eye opener for the people in the district.

For instance, Mary said through the project as parents they are now aware that it is wrong to force girls into marriage for tha sake of a bale of sugar.

“Previously, some parents used to  demand for a crate of soft drinks but now they are demanding for a bale of sugar to men who want to marry their children,” she said.

The project

Youth Net and Counselling with support from UNFPA is implementing various activities in Nkhatabay, Mangochi, Machinga, Chinkhwawa and Chiradzulu districts.

According to YONECO’s media officer Charles Banda, the activities are aimed at improving access to Sexual Reproductive Health services and providing and promoting sex and sexuality education for young people.

Banda said the interventions that YONECO does contribute to the UNDAF outcomes of increasing access to equitable and quality health services by 2016 and the output that looks at improving programming for essential sexual and reproductive health services to marginalized adolescents and young people.

YONECO is also conducting monitoring visits and review meeting in Mangochi district apart from Chinkhwawa  with an aim of targeting activities that they implemented under the UN JPAG  project.

After the joint monitoring visit, YONECO and relevant stakeholders will hold a project review meeting to share progress of the project and review the joint monitoring visits.

According to Munthali, the review process will be an opportunity for various players in the UN JPAG to share what has been achieved so far and they have planned to do in the months to come.

“It is expected that YONECO and stakeholders from the following offices, DYO. DHO, DEM will take part in presenting the progress achieved so far in the project,” he concludes.

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