Minister backs Cairo promise

Minister of Health Jappie Mhango has backed the global push to ensure that every girl learns until her dreams come true though nearly half of Malawian girls marry before their 18th birthday.

The minister was speaking shortly after Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta opened the second International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Nairobi.

Mhango is today expected to unveil Malawi’s lofty ambition to end child marriage and teen pregnancy by 2030.

Mhango (R) and Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dan Namarika follow proceedings

This is in line with the Kenyan leader’s clarion call for governments to end the twin problem and preventable maternal deaths while increasing access to secondary and tertiary education which remains stumpy in low- and middle-income countries, including Malawi.

Kenyatta urged nations worldwide to keep the promise they made at a similar conference in Cairo, Egypt in 1994, which United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) executive director Natalia Kanem termed a watershed moment in the unfulfilled struggle to put women and girls at the centre of the global development agenda.

Keeping girls in school and out of marriage is one of the major pillars of the resolutions made in the Egypt capital, dubbed the Cairo Programme of Action.  It also guarantees the right to comprehensive sexual and reproduction health information and services, including contraceptives.

Ensuring girls learn beyond their 18th birthday is one of the pillars seen as one of the major strategies to reduce child marriage, which he rightly noted that it denies girls a chance to achieve their potential and to contribute to the development of their nations. The 2015 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey shows 47 percent of girls marry before attaining the legal marriageable age and about a third of adolescent girls get pregnant, a setback often attributed to poverty, harmful cultural practices, community indifference and low access to sexual and reproductive health options that are friendly to the youth.

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