By Kondwani Magombo – MANA
Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati, has appealed to all chiefs in Mangochi to champion the fight against early marriages and encourage girls to value education.
The minister made the appeal on Thursday in Mangochi when she closed an interface meeting that chiefs and Area Development Committees (ADCs) had with the NGO Board and Plan International Malawi on projects monitoring.
She said figures of early marriages and teen pregnancies captured in the media for Mangochi district are very alarming and that there is need for every stakeholder in the district to participate in the fight.
“I’m pleading with you, my elders, to take this challenge head-on and lead in ending child marriages in the district.
“Make special committees on ending child marriages in the district and encourage our girls to go back to school,” said Kaliati.
She also appealed to the District Executive Committee (DEC) and the Civil Society Organizations in the district to join hands in the fight and ensure that girls concentrate on their education.
The minister hailed Mangochi District Commissioner, Raphael Pilingu, and Traditional Authority Bwananyambi, for their efforts in their respective roles.
“I salute the District Commissioner, here, who has been on a door-to-door campaign visiting the chiefs to appreciate the situation on the ground: that is very commendable and encouraging,” said Kaliati.
She added: “I also salute T.A. Bwananyambi who instituted a special committee to end child marriages and as we speak now, one of the girls who were rescued from early marriage is at Mzuzu University.”
Speaking on behalf of the chiefs in the district, Senior Chief Jalasi said the chiefs have always been committed to fighting early marriages and that they would continue doing so.
Jalasi said to show their commitment, the chiefs formulated strict by-laws which mainly focus on safeguarding the right of children to education among other areas.
Meanwhile, Plan International Malawi is implementing a five-year project, Ending Child Marriages, which aims at supporting girls to get education.
Plan International Senior Public Health Specialist, Dr. Mary Shawa, said in an interview the project also has a component whereby chiefs will be awarded prizes for ending child marriages.
“Under gender inclusion and gender development, Plan International Malawi will reach out to 3,1 million girls in Malawi with support in terms of education, ending child marriages and ensuring that these girls move to better level where they can read and write,” said Shawa.
She added that the organisation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare to join forces in the fight.
Shawa further said any chief who achieves a ‘no-child marriage’ status in a whole year would get an award.