By Mphatso Nkuonera
Lilongwe, Mana: Minister of Gender Community Development and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati has challenged various stakeholders to join hands to combating child marriages in the country.
She made these remarks on Tuesday at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe during a lunch of a ‘Call to Action on the Ending Child Marriage.’
“It is sad to note that the country has one of the highest child marriages in the region, despite good policies to combat it. We need to have a collective action to ensure that the vice is corrected,” Kaliati said.
The Minister warned community leaders and Traditional Authorities (TAs) who are encouraging early marriages that they would face the law.
UNICEF’S Country Representative, Rudolf Schwenk said it was worrisome to not that there is an increase in child marriage.
“We ask families and societies to change their attitudes on child marriage and to change their attitudes on child marriage and extend opportunities for childhood learning and education by keeping girls in school,” he said, adding in 2019 alone, 13, 000 girls got into early marriage and early pregnancy increased by 11 percent.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Representative to Malawi, Farayi Gwenhamo said the rate of child marriages in the country was at 42 per cent which a third country with highest child marriages after Mozambique and Nigeria.
“IMF has looked at the relationship between child marriage and economic growth. The two are very symbiotic when you combat child marriages you increase a countries GDP per capital by 1.5 per cent, this is a very key to achieve any country’s development,” she said.
Gwenhamo added that when the education is promoted among children to reduce early marriages by 14 per cent which comes as delayed marriages and have low fertility rate.
“It reduces maternal and infant mortality rate, which eventually make a country to reduce hunger, illiteracy rate, which is a great achievement all countries must strive to attain,” she added.
One of the survivor of child marriage, Miriam Sannart 18, of Chimbende Village, TA Chowe said there are more problems in early marriage and encouraged fellow girls to take education serious.
“I dropped out of school when I was in standards 6 and got married at the age of 17 due to peer pressure. At first it was all well but things turned worse as time went by. Through the help of mothers groups, I terminated the marriage and re-joined school in standard 7. Now, am proudly in form 2 and I dream to be a nurse,” she said.
Champion of Ending Child Marriage from Mangochi, Traditional Authority (TA) Chowe said dealing with early marriage and school dropout was one of the strongest pillars of achieving national development.
“Numbers of early marriages and pregnancies are very high in our district. We stood up to reverse the vice. We ended early marriages and encouraged those with pregnancies to take national examinations. For those with children were urged to re-join school,” he said