News / Africa

In Malawi, Group Works to End Early Marriage for Girls

Traditional Authority Chitera signs by-laws as GENET's Joyce Mkandawire looks on (GENET)
Traditional Authority Chitera signs by-laws as GENET's Joyce Mkandawire looks on (GENET)
Lameck Masina
In Malawi, many girls drop out of school because they are forced by their families to marry an older man.  But a local NGO is working to change the practice.
 
The Stop Child Marriage project is following widely reported cases of girls dropping out from school largely because of forced early marriages.
 
The project is being carried out in Chitera village in the southern district of Chiradzulu.  The region has one of the country’s highest rates of child marriage.
 
Faith Phiri is the Executive Director of the Girls Empowerment Network, GENET.
 
“In this area," she says, "you could hear stories of girls as young as 10 or 11 years being forced into marriage with men four or five times older. So that’s why we thought of running this campaign so that we should change the situation of adolescent girls in this area”.
 
Phiri says one of contributing factors is a traditional practice known as Kusasa Fumbi.  It requires girls who have begun their menstrual cycles to have sex with a man as a way of removing what is called ‘childhood dust’. 
 
“Such a tradition negatively impacts the lives of adolescent girls because after undergoing an initiation ceremony, the girl is deemed to be mature enough to handle marriage. This is usually at the age of around 10, 11 or 12,”  she explains.
 
Phiri says another danger is that most of the men hired for removing so-called ‘dust’ don’t use condoms and put their adolescent partners at risk of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS. 


 
Another cultural practice, Chitomero, encourages parents to offer a dowry to an older man who agrees to marry their young daughter.   
 
Phiri says the Girls Empowerment Network is asking traditional leaders to modify or abolish the practices.
 
“Over 22 community leaders sat down and drafted by-laws that are there to protect the adolescent girls. In these areas, child marriage is now a criminal offence. People have been penalized because of violating these by laws,”  she says.
 
The Traditional Authority – Chitera, or supreme leader of the village and 50 others,  has taken action against the practice.  She says the by-laws penalize any traditional leader or parent who authorizes the marriage of a girl younger than 21 years of age.
 
“The chiefs are penalized by paying seven goats to me," she says. "Parents who force their children into marriage would be fined to pay three chickens to their village headman and a goat to me, the ‘traditional authority.’”
 
Chitera says there have been no cases of child marriage since the formal adoption of the by-laws six months ago.
 
And this is good news to the girls in the district.  Thokozani Kazembe is a 17-year old attending secondary school at Nkhande Secondary School.
 
“We girls here have benefited a lot from the empowerment project," says Kazembe. "Besides advocating the abolition of the bad cultural practices, it has also enlightened us to [think about]  who we want to become after completing our education. In the past, we were attending school just because we wanted to learn reading and writing.”
 
Phiri says the challenge is that it becomes difficult to punish some people from villages which are not party to the bylaws when they take an underage girl for marriage. 
 
She says if there are enough funds, they plan to extend the three- year project to the rest of the district and completely end early marriage.

Listen to report on the early marriage of girls in Malawi
Listen to report on the early marriage of girls in Malawi i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid