Senior Chief Chapananga of Chikhwawa has warned local chiefs within his jurisdiction that they will be fired once found promoting early marriages in their areas.
The Senior Chief made the remarks during the 2017 Day of African Child commemoration which took place at Lundu Primary School Ground under Traditional Authority Chapananga in the district.
Chapananga said the local chiefs such as village heads and group village heads should be at the forefront promoting a conducive environment for the girl child by also ensuring that the bylaws which were passed in the area are effective.
“Let me be clear here that whosoever is found on the wrong side promoting early marriages or conducting initiation ceremonies during school time will be fired from his position.
“This should clearly be heard by everyone of you be it a village head or group village head. I will not spare you!” said Chapananga.
He added that parents too are responsible to ensure that their children especially girls are being advised on proper manners while urging the children to follow proper codes of conduct for their bright future.
“We recently passed the bylaws that cover almost most of the issues in our area and this is the time that we must ensure they are followed. This is not a one man’s battle but rather we need all of us to join hands so that the battle is won,” added Chapananga.
On her part, Chikhwawa District Social Welfare Officer Rosemary Mahata commended the senior chief’s sentiments while acknowledging that Traditional Authority Chapananga’s area emerged as one of the areas in the district where incidences of early marriages and pregnancies have been reduced.
She therefore urged parents and guardians to make sure that in all their endeavours, they protect children from various forms of abuse while urging them to provide equal treatment to all children no matter one’s status.
“Chikhwawa district has bylaws that tackle on issues of initiation ceremonies, video shows and many other things. My advice to video show owners is to avoid accepting children in their places and to not show them pornographic materials.
“Let’s protect our children from child labour as this is also another challenge as a district we are experiencing. Do not let your children walk at night or sleep on their own as that is said to be one formula children use to indulge themselves in malpractices,” said Mahata.
She however said that her office noted that most cases of abuse especially on early marriages and pregnancies are prompted by members of the family adding that such a scenario is hampering efforts to curb the malpractices.
“When members of a family are on the forefront fuelling early marriages, pregnancies or even involved in rape or defilement cases, we have challenges in pursuing such cases because in most cases we have withdrawal of cases at court and failure to disclose those involved. But all we need are collective efforts if we are to end these challenges,” added Mahata.
She said if indeed the senior chief will fire any local leader involved in the promotion of early marriages, she will give him a K50, 000 as an award for the action.
Chikhwawa District Council Chairperson, Councillor Collex Nankumba, who was the guest of owner said it is worrisome that at a time when government and other stakeholders are promoting child rights and access to education, some local leaders through outdated cultural practices such as Nthena in some parts of the Lower Shire are fuelling the efforts.
He said it is good that duty bearers are all in forefront taking part in protecting the girl child while adding that it is sad that due to a status one holds other people tend to hide them even when they are in conflict with the law.
“Let’s report all that are in conflict with the law to those responsible and I should also ask our courts and police to ensure that they arrest all those found to be in conflict with the law having collected the required evidence,” said Nankumba.
These sentiments come at a time when a certain village headman at Ndakwera area in the district is on remand at Chikhwawa prison for raping a 14-year-old mentally ill and disabled girl.
The event which was commemorated under the theme “Accelerating Protection, Empowerment and Equal Protection for all Children in Malawi” was done with support from various stakeholders such as the Malawi Red Cross Society, World Vision, SOS Children’s Village Malawi, Campaign for Female Education (Camfed), Goal Malawi, Hunger Project Malawi and the African Parks Majete.