By Chimwemwe Chiwanda
Chewa Chiefs in the country have agreed on 12 years as the rightful age for boy children to be initiated into Gulewamkulu Cult in order to allow them thrive in education.
The resolution was made at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe during a workshop organized by Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) where seventeen chiefs from different districts in the central region met with Chewa Heritage Foundation (Chefo).
The three parties (ECM, Chefo and Chiefs) observed that the early initiation of children into gulewamkulu has many negatives in the children, one of them is divulging secretes of the culture and lack of concentration at school.
“We have to uproot some negative cultural norms that seem to perpetrate domestic violence and impinge on children’s right to education.
“Initiating children at a tender age is a way of transferring the culture into young ones, but we have assessed this and agreed that this has caused trouble in various ways in our communities,” Senior Chief Mwansambo of Nkhotakota said.
Senior chiefs Kayembe and Kasakula from Dowa and Ntchisi respectively, raised concerns over increased incidences of incest in the country which they said husbands agree with wives to get rich after consulting herbalists.
“Cases of incest are increasing due to the dilution of dressing culture which has been influenced by modernization. Fathers and daughters must keep a social distance,” saidChief Njewa from Lilongwe.
Chefo’s Secretary General, Richard Mdyetseni said there are many cultural aspects that need to be looked into by chiefs in order to have violence-free societies.
“The issue of girls sleeping with men (fisi) to show that they have grown is one of the foremost factors of domestic violence because girls might not want to succumb in to sexual acts, but it is forced on them.
“As a result, girls are prone to HIV and AIDS and getting hurt,” he said.
He added that the age of twelve is fair for initiating boys into Gulewamkulu and anything without parental consent or child’s willingness must be abolished as it is a violation of their rights.
Mdyetseni further said EAM and Chefo would strengthen the communities through traditional authorities in controlling norms that trample on people’s human rights.
EAM’s Gender Coordinator, Timothy Zimba said the main target is to make sure that cultural norms do not violate the rights of women and children when enacted on them.
“We are comfortable with the twelve years agreed here to initiate boys into gulewamkulu.
“We need to respect women and children in order to foster cooperation among people to see what is right and what is wrong in their cultural practices.
“This will help to eliminate norms that affect people’s lives,” he said.
EAM is implementing a three-year Gender and Justice Project with financial support from Norwegian Church Aid.