Nellie Matewere who is Miss Africa Washington State has pledged to contribute towards the campaign against child marriages in Malawi.
Matewere said during the launch of her campaign against child marriages conducted on Sunday at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe.
Addressing the gathering through Zoom, Matewere said few months ago she made a promise that during her term in office she will contribute towards ending child marriages without knowing that people’s rights to free movement will be challenged by COVID-19.
She added that she is concerned with child marriages in Africa because it is a practice that threatens children’s wellbeing and that constitutes multiple violations of their rights.
“I am concerned because it is a harmful practice that has been shown to have profound physical, intellectual, psychological, and emotional impacts on children, especially for girls.
“I have chosen to start my campaign in Malawi, the country of my birth where over 50% of women aged 20-24 first married before the age of 18.
“As we are meeting here today, I have been informed that Malawi Human Rights Commission has recorded over 12 thousand cases of child marriages in the year 2020 due to COVID 19
“Malawi is a country where about 4% of the population is married below age 15 and 24% is married before age of 18. It is a country with one in every five teenage girls in a formal marriage whilst 4% is in an informal union,” she said.
Matewere went on to say that Girls living in poor households or those raised by women with no education are more likely to be married off.
She then pledged to provide training to 20 female models she has recruited to be available to thousands of at risk girls who need protection, mentors and advisors.
She also vowed to be sensitizing members of the general public and children on the dangers of child marriages.
On her part, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Executive Secretary Habiba Osman welcomed the development saying the issue of child marriage is very critical and need a special attention.
She noted that despite having laws that contribute to the arrest of perpetrators, there is need of more effort and voices need to be heard.
She then called upon stakeholders and other young people to be involved in order to eliminate the issue of child marriages.