By Synd Kalimbuka
At least 4 out of every 10 girls aged between 12 and 16 are at risk of getting into early marriages in the area of Traditional Authority Malemia in Zomba district.
According to the Executive Director of Tikondwe Community Based Organisation (CBO) Peter Chipala, the problem of young girls getting into marriage is very big in the area.
Chipala said cases of girls aged between 12 and 16 dropping out of school due to early marriages are increasing every day.
In his speech during project briefing aimed at ending child marriages to group village heads under Senior Chief Malemia, Chipala said the project will create awareness among communities and also engage local leaders including chiefs to be ambassadors to fight against child marriages in the area.
“This project will help all stakeholders in the area of Senior Chief Malemia to walk with one voice in fighting against child marriages,” he said.
In addition to creating awareness and elimination of child marriages, the project will be supporting families that have allowed to go back to school after termination of the early marriage.
Tikondwe CBO will work hand in hand with chiefs to assist in enforcement of by-laws aimed at elimination of child marriages.
As one way of making sure that chiefs are working effectively, the CBO will facilitate the learning visit in which chiefs, representatives from police, court, Social Welfare office will visit Senior Chief Kachindamoto in Dedza to learn how senior chief managed to address child marriages.
Senior Chief Malemia commended the CBO for coming up with this project in his area aimed at addressing challenges among young girls.
Chief Malemia said neglecting stakeholders such as parents and chiefs has contributed much in increased cases of child marriages.
“We need to work hand in hand and take action when it comes to end child marriages where all stakeholders should not neglect in handling such cases,” said Malemia.
He said some of the contributing factors to child marriages in his area are Covid-19 pandemic, cultural beliefs, lack of information sharing and poverty.
District Social Welfare Officer for Zomba district council Christopher Ndaona said as a social problem affecting entire nation, his office will provide necessary support to Tikondwe CBO to implement the project effectively.
Ndaona emphasized that chiefs in the area should take the leading role in fighting against issues to do with child protection.
“Chiefs have capacity to deal with issues to do with any form of child abuse including child marriages considering the powers they have at community level,” Ndaona said.
He encouraged chiefs to take action against any child marriage case in the area.
Group village Headman Mtogolo made a proposal to review already existing by-laws at traditional authority level as one way to address child marriage with one voice.
Tikondwe CBO is implementing a 3-year project to end child marriage with support of about K52 Million from United States of America based organisation called Firelight foundation.