News / Africa

    In Malawi, NGOs and Government Join Forces to End Forced Marriage

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Lameck Masina

    In Malawi, NGOs and the government are working together to end forced marriages and other traditional practices that violate the rights of girls. The effort follows reports that more and more girls are being forced into marriage with older men.

    One of the practices under scrutiny is kupimbira, a tradition in northern Malawi where parents arrange for their young daughters to marry older men without the girls’ consent. In return, the new husbands pay the parents a dowry or forgive a debt. Usually, this is done when the girl is still a child. Supporters say it allows parents to choose the best husbands for their daughters.

    Thirteen-year-old Belita Simpokolwe was once forced to marry an old man: “My stepfather ordered me to quit school and get married to a 77-year-old man. He said I was too old for grade four. But I refused, and I told him that I want to continue with my education.

    “Soon after that, my stepfather sent me to the market without money. Instead, he [told] me to collect some money from a certain gentleman ranging from $5 to $10, some of which I would use to buy some food, and return the change to him.”

    Simpokolwe says she didn’t suspect anything unusual, because she thought the man was related to her stepfather.

    But to her surprise, she says, three weeks later the man came to her house with a hoe – used sometimes in the north as a symbol of a dowry. If a woman agrees to take it, she has accepted his proposal.

    “I was shocked when my stepfather asked me to [accept] it from the man. Confused, I objected. My mother tried to reason with him that I was too young for marriage.”

    But my stepfather [attacked] my mother, saying he could divorce her if she continued opposing his wishes. He also said [we should not turn down his offer] because we had already [spent] the money from the gentleman.”

    Seven-year-old Tumpe Mwambene says she was forced to marry a 40-year-old herbalist in the Karonga District. He had treated her illness, but her father had no money to pay.

    Mwambene says she did household chores and was beaten if she refused to have sex.

    Mwambene and Simpokolwe have now returned to school, thanks in part to groups like the Chitipa Women’s Forum. It works with a project working to defend the rights of girls called Social Empowerment on Rights for Vulnerable and Excluded Women (SERVE). The project, which is funded by the NGO ActionAid, works to defeat any practice that prevents a girl from receiving an education.

    The chairperson of the Forum, Ruth Mbale, says the group tries to convince parents to allow their daughters to go back to school, even if it means rescinding their decision to force her to marry:

    “Since most women here did not go further in their education,” says Mbale, “it was good to discourage early marriages and urge young girls to proceed with education, taking advantage of government’s readmission policy which allows girls to go back to school.”

    But Mbale says parents and sometimes chiefs insist that they are too poor to pay girls’ school fees. So she says members of her group contribute to a fund that helps support girls who cannot pay for their education.

    An impact assessment shows that the project has had some success reducing child marriage in Chitipa district, where 40 married girls between seven and 16 years old have gone back to school.

    In some areas, village officials like senior chief Mwaulambia are trying to end the tradition, especially, he says, because it’s unconstitutional:

    “We agree that kupimbira is a bad practice, especially today, when we are told to treat both girls and boys the same. In my area, I make sure that it is being suppressed very vividly. If someone is forcing a child into early marriage, we as chiefs have our own ways of punishing our people, or we may tell [parents they must give a chicken as a penalty]. If they object, we have the powers to evict them.”

    The SERVE project is also working to end other cultural practices that can interfere with the education of women, like kulowa kufa, which requires a widow to cleanse the village of death by having sex with a man. Another is nhlazi, under which the wife’s sister or another relative is given to the husband, sometimes even if the child bride is too young to become pregnant.

    Similar projects are also being implemented in three other districts; Rumphi, Salima and Chiradzulu.

     

     

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.