Malawi has been highlighted as one of the African countries doing well in efforts to end child marriages.
This was revealed at the ongoing Africa Health Agenda International Conference (Ahaic) in Kigali, Rwanda. The news follows the successful implementation of an integrated project of withdrawing girls from early marriages using a community philanthropy approach in Karonga District.
Christian Aid acting head of programmes Emmanuel Kanike said in his presentation at the conference that the project drastically reduced cases of child marriages in the district and if replicated in other areas, it may have a similar effect.
“In 2016, 66 women got trained as leaders in a model called Sasa! to fight harmful socio-cultural practices including child marriages with support from traditional leaders. The next year, community leaders and stakeholders signed by-laws to protect children from getting married.
“Out of 525 girls that were withdrawn from child marriages, 150 returned to school. The DfID-funded project did not have funds to support the education of children withdrawn from marriages. As such, the community established a fund to support girls education and about K1 million was raised,” he said.
In an interview, Kanike said the project was successful due to high political will and engagement by traditional leaders.
“The community came up with the by-laws together with the police, Judiciary and traditional leaders. As such, members had ownership of the project,” he stated.
Malawi has the eleventh highest rate of child marriage in the world and ninth in Africa, with 47 percent of women marrying before 18 while 12 percent marry before the age of 15 and begin child bearing a year after marriage.
Similar efforts are being replicated in Mulanje where the project is also registering success stories.
Organised by Amref Health Africa, the conference, which has drawn about 1 500 delegates from 38 African countries, is an opportunity for countries like Malawi to map a pathway from commitment to action on universal health coverage (UHC).
Amref is the biggest non-governmental organisation in Africa, working in 35 countries on the continent. n