By Synd Kalimbuka
Tikondwe Community Based Organisation (CBO) in the area of Traditional Authority Malemia in Zomba district has rescued a 13-year-old girl from early marriage.
The CBO Director Peter Chipala revealed this on Saturday during distribution of school uniforms to 65 primary school learners from Domasi, Kanjedza and Matandani primary schools as one way of supporting their education.
Chipala said the CBO works hand in hand with a Member of Parliament for the area (Zomba Malosa) Grace Kwelepeta in addressing challenges children face under child protection initiative.
“In the process of conducting awareness on child protection, we found that 51 girls aged between 13-19 years were pregnant between the month of April and September, 2020 the situation which did not please us,” said Chipala.
Chipala also said that the CBO received report from Jenipher Faraoh of Kapichi village that her girl child left her home and opted to stay with her boyfriend aged 17 as a family without parents’ consent.
His team traced the girl and found her at the boy’s house while the boy was hiding at his relative’s house in Balaka when the rumour reached him that the CBO team was going to dissolve the marriage.
According to Chipala, this has worked as a stern warning to other girls who have similar thoughts so that they should reverse the decision and concentrate on school.
He also urged Community members to be reporting related cases including gender based violence to his CBO.
In her remarks, after distribution of school uniforms to 65 learners worth K250, 000, Member of Parliament for the area Grace Kwelepeta encouraged the CBO to continue supporting needy learners in promoting their education.
Kwelepeta also urged parents to keep on encouraging their children to work hard and remain at school to be Malawi’s productive citizens in future.
“It is responsibility of all of us here including you parents to encourage our children to work hard and remain at school instead of rushing into marriages.
“If we educate these girls, they will become self-dependent and be country’s productive citizens,” she said.
She also advised parents not to send their children for vending during class days saying this affects their education in a sense that they don’t concentrate on studies.
The Legislature further promised to support the CBO with 3 rolls of clothing materials to increase number of learners to benefit from uniforms from the CBO.
Assistant District Social Welfare Officer Jim Muli commended Tikondwe CBO for the initiative saying they are complementing government efforts in Child protection and support.
Muli said his office is currently working with all stakeholders in dissolving early marriages and making sure that children are protected from any abuse.
Member of Parliament for this area has been working together with the youth and CBO networks in addressing challenges affecting the area including fighting against Covid-19 pandemic through distribution of free masks to communities.
The data indicates that Zomba district registered over 500 early marriages, 210 early pregnancies and dissolved 175 early marriages by October, 2020.
The district council through the office of District Social Welfare Office has so far engaged chiefs to facilitate the process of dissolving all early marriages in the district.
The office is supporting with fuel to chiefs such as Traditional Authority Nkagula to visit all households whose girls entered into early marriages and to withdraw them.