Timveni child and youth media organization through the 18+ media project has reached out to communities in Mulanje, enlightening them on legal frameworks that protect children from early marriages.
It is more of “Brides not Girls” in Mulanje district as 80 percent of girls between the age of 20-24 are reported to have been married by the age of 18 and around 90 percent became sexually active before the age of 18 according to statistics produced by United Nations Children’s Education Fund in 2017.
According to Timveni, the escalated rates have been down to lack of appreciating the need for education as well as the presence of harmful cultural practices that have not only paved way for children into marriages but put them at risk of contracting the HIV virus as well.
Lack of knowledge on legal frameworks that protect children from getting married before the age of 18 has been another root cause.
From December 2 through December 14 Timveni child and youth media organization visited Mulanje communities to teach them on the subject.
Being a media component, the organization used big screens to project different discussions surrounding the legal framework and after the films they brought further discussions with the communities through a series of questions.
Speaking after the interaction with people at Mandanda village in T/A Nkanda on Saturday, Timveni project coordinator Ernest Makanda was hopeful that the discussions will encourage people to take more appropriate actions to fight child marriages.
“As Timveni we believe that the more they talk about ending child marriages and the legal framework that supports it the more they get stirred to put an action.
“We are here to raise awareness, to tell the communities of the legal framework that are there to protect the children. If people know the laws that protect the rights of children I am very sure that they will be able to address certain issues because they have a certain level of knowledge. They will be able to know what not to do to their children,” he said.
The legal framework that protects children include the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, Child Care Protection and Justice Act as well as Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act and the Penal code.
Project officer for Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) Enifa Masaka said that it is high time people in the communities took action to end child marriages.
She urged communities to put into good use the knowledge they have gained.
“We want communities to understand the child marriage related laws that protect children so that they act as control measures when fighting child marriages. We want community members to take action and organize appropriate activities that will help to reduce the number of child marriages,” she said.
Group village head Mandanda hailed the impact the project is bringing in his village as people have now started to appreciate the need for education.
He said: “Knowing that there are laws that protect children from getting married will only strengthen us to continue the work that we have already started against child marriages.”
Timveni has so far set up 20 radio listening clubs through which it engages several stakeholders into discussing issues concerning child marriages.
18+ media project is a complementary project to the existing Plan International’s 18+ Ending child marriages project being implemented in TA Nkanda and TA Juma. Apart from working with Timveni, Plan International through its partner Norkring is also working with girls empowerment network (GENET).
Written by Daniel Nyanjagha