Deputy Director for Child Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Children Disability and Social Welfare, Trevor Hamela says girls still go through many challenges despite the country having policies and laws aimed at protecting the girls.
Hamela was speaking on Thursday in Lilongwe at a panel discussion in preparation for the International Girl Child Day organised by his Ministry.
He said although there have been successes in terms of reduction of the number of girls getting into early marriages among other challenges, there were still many issues hindering the girls from achieving their dreams that needed to be addressed.
“There have been some successes, for example, the number of girls going into early marriages has dropped to around 45 per cent from at least 50 per cent before legal marriage age was revised upwards from 16 years to 18years.
“The legal provision for parental consent for girls younger than 18 to get married, was also removed. This has also helped to achieve those successes,” he said.
However, Hamela said a large number of girls continue dropping out of school and there is need for concerted effort to address this challenge.
He said there is also need to popularise the policies and laws that protect girls such as the legal marriage age law for women. He added that parents need to understand these laws and help in protecting girls from early marriages and not promoting them.
Programme Specialist on Gender at UNICEF, Christobel Chakwana said her organisation has been assisting the government in a number of ways to keep girl children in school.
She cited the scholarships that have so far benefited at least 6500 girls among other efforts.
Alinafe Mahimanya who represented girls at the panel discussion advised parents to stop encouraging the girls to get into early marriages.
She also advised girls to be aware of who they are so that they may handle peer pressure which may lead to early pregnancies and even marriages.
Representatives from Save the Children and Tithetse Nkhanza Programme also attended the panel discussion.
This year’s International Girl Child Day will be held on November 4 in Nsanje under the theme “Girl force unscripted, unstoppable”.
By Manasse Nyirenda – Mana