By Fostina Mkandawire
Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Mary Navicha on Thursday emphasized on the need to equip girls with necessary information as a means to end child marriages.
Navicha was speaking in Lilongwe during the official opening for the National symposium on ending child marriages in Lilongwe.
Navicha said knowledge such as places where girls can access sexual reproductive services and where to report and acquire assistance when they are sexually abused should easily be made available for girls.
“For our country to develop, we need to make deliberate efforts and to prioritize girls in knowledge acquisition and financial empowerment,” she said.
She said Knowledge acquisition and financial empowerment of girls and women is one of the most fundamentally sound methods of changing the country for the better.
Navicha said provision of the right information will help reduce Malawi’s rates of child marriages which are still overwhelming.
“We are currently at one in two girls marrying by the age of 18, topping the list of those countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world,” she said.
She said the situation is even worse in rural areas where girls are married off very young to improve the families’ financial statuses.
“The most unfortunate thing is that none of these girls want to be in this fate, they all wish to remain in school and grow up with their friends and families,” she said.
She, therefore, said the symposium was aimed at giving to stakeholders an opportunity to explore more ways and strategies to end child marriages in the country.
Navicha said the symposium would engage stakeholders from various sectors including chiefs, service providers, religious leaders and the children themselves, especially girls.
Country Alliance Coordinator for More-Than Brides Consortium, Lydia Fulirwa said the symposium was also meant to stock-take on past activities on ending child marriages in the country.
“As we are taking stock of what we have been doing, it is our opportunity to critically think what we can do differently to turn things around and for the better,” she said.
“Child marriage brings a lot of negativity in the lives of children, health of children is always endangered as girls under the age of 15 years are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties,” she said.
In February, 2015, the Malawian Constitution was aligned with the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act which set the minimum age of marriage at 18.-MANA