Rumphi NGO fights early marriages: Keeping girls in school

Life Concern Organization (Lico) has called on government and non- governmental organizations to step up efforts in rooting out problems that are forcing girls into early pregnancies and marriages.

Girls marching against early marriages. Pic by Elias Nyirenda

Lico Executive Director Peter Gondwe said this on Saturday at St. Denis Hall in Rumphi during a Girls Forum on Early Marriages that was organized by Lico in conjunction with Chikulamayembe Womens Forum.

The Girls Forum on Early Marriages drew together 200 participating girls from various secondary schools across the district with an aim of finding lasting solutions to cases of early marriages which are said to be on the increase in the district.

In his keynote address during the forum, Gondwe said it’s a pity to note that cases of early pregnancies marriages continues to rise despite efforts being made to curb them.

He attributed this surge in early marriage cases to social and traditional beliefs that look at girls and women as second class citizens not worth of education and the poverty that forces parents to marry off their girls in order to obtain dowry which is in form of cash or cattle.

“Rumphi is a predominantly tobacco producing district and now with the tobacco prices tumbling at Auction Floors many parents are finding it difficult to raise resources and finance girl-child education. Girls are instead married off as a means for financial survival,” said Gondwe.

He said it is against this background that his organization is paying school fees for 67 vulnerable girls of which 16 were withdrawn from early marriages and readmitted to school.

In her remarks, Chikulamayembe Womens Forum Chairperson Tiwonge Gondwe urged government to consider constructing girl’s hostels in all secondary schools.

She said secondary school going girls in self boarding facilities face enormous challenges that are putting them at higher risks of early pregnancies and contraction of HIV and AIDS.

The Girls Forum on Early Marriages now in its third year running brings together officials from government and non-governmental organizations with a sole purpose of promoting girl child education.

This year’s Forum also drew role models from the Police, Bank, Banks, Education and Judiciary where women achievers were paraded and gave motivation talks with a view of encouraging girls to work hard in their studies.

During the Forum outstanding girls were also rewarded for their hard work with gifts that among others included learning materials, laundry soap and re-usable sanitary pads.

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