Some weeks before any tradition wedding in Nkhatabay and Mzimba are reserved for ‘Magolowazi'(pre-wedding celebrations), characterized by dances and, obviously, some ungodly doings under the umbrella of darkness.
The celebrations are, according to some custodians of the practice, meant for, among other things, raising funds and of course setting the pace for the initial wedding.
Our team camped in Mzimba and Nkhatabay to appreciate how the traditional practice is fueling early pregnancies and marriages in the two districts.
The trips to the Ngoni and Tonga lands were influenced by the rampant early marriages that are still happening behind laws and policies in the said districts.
In December last year, a 17-year-old boy in Chitheka, Nkhatabay, tied knots with his sweetheart, aged 14 at a traditional wedding ceremony that took place at Kang’oma village.
Another wedding of minors happened in Njuyu area, where an 18-year-old boy wedded to a 15-year-old bride in spite of the growing efforts aimed at eradicating early marriages.
We began our stay in Chitheka, Nkhatabay. Here, we established that, most marriages are founded during weeks of a festival, termed ‘Magolowazi’ which happens before tradition weddings.
It is during such a festival, which usually happen at night, when boys and girls find suitors of their own. Casual sex is, of course, also rampant in dark corners. While other pretend to be dancing and celebrating, others utilize the time to do the inevitables.
Months later, as William Mphande, one of the villagers in Kang’oma, puts it, a lot of pregnancies are reported far and wide in the area.
“This forces boys to marry early. Most of us, married in such a way. These celebrations are very bad. They’re a breeding ground for pregnancies and early marriages,” he said.
“In fact, most events that happen at night, are dangerous. Sexual intercourse becomes rampant in dark corners. Transmission of diseases is obviously there as well.”
In Njuyu area, Mzimba, similar stories were told. There, just like in Chitheka, Nkhatabay. The pre-wedding celebration is an arena for finding suitors and sexual feast.
As George Chipeta puts it. Many marriages began at such festivals.
“It’s undeniable fact. This practice has sent many into marriages earlier before they had planned,” he said.
In Nkhatabay, village headman Muyangala acknowledged that the practice has brought a lot of harm than it’s intended good and henceforth, he promised, to suspend it.
“We have learnt from it. And, as a leader, I’ve discovered that it is a bad cultural practice. I’ll make sure that we abolish it entirely here in,” he said.
In Mzimba, Inkosi M’belwa and the counsel of chiefs agreed and set bylaws which criminalizes any cultural practice that is deemed a breeding ground for early marriages.
The Paramount chief ordered that such practices must be put to an end. Other chiefs have been dethroned owing to contravening of such laws.
In Malawi, the legal age for a girl to get married is 18 and 21 for boys.