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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

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