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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid