By Kenson McCloud
Team leader for Breakthrough Action Malawi, Jennifer Boyle, has implored adolescents in the country to take a leading role in advocating for adolescents to remain in school as one way of dealing with issues of child marriages in the country.
The call was made when the team leader visited one of the impact areas of the project in the area of Traditional Authority Makhwira in Chikwawa.
In an interview with Timveni Online, Boyle observed that change is in the adolescent’s hands since they are the one who are heavily affected by child marriages.
Child marriages remain one of the key factors affecting children in the country.
According to research, about 42% of girls marry before the age of 18 and 9% marry before the age of 15.
It is believed that the Covid-19 pandemic made the situation worse as the country registered 3000 cases of children dropping out of school through early pregnancies.
However, different organisations, such as Breakthrough Action have been making efforts to ensure that the situation changes for the better in the country.
Boyle who is based in the United States of America and was in the country recently, expressed satisfaction with the progress that has been made so far.
Boyle said she was especially impressed with how Breakthrough has managed to reach out to a wide range of people, from the girls themselves to boys, fathers and traditional and religious leaders.
She, however, said there is need for the targeted people to "amplify the messages in order to reach others as well" .
According to Boyle, Breakthrough is committed to secure funds to reach out to more areas but she called for the youth to take the leading role in ensuring that they delay getting married while young and instead focus on pursuing their goals.
16 year-old, joyce (not real name) is one of the beneficiaries of the project and explained how she was saved from the jaws of early marriage.
According to Joyce, she dropped out of school in standard 8 due to financial challenges.
Joyce said was reached out to by community action group members under Breakthrough Action that convinced her to return to school.
The young lady, who is now in form one said, "despite still facing challenges of school fees, I'm now committed to continue with my studies" .
Sharing her sentiments is 18-year-old Chimwemwe (not real name) who got pregnant while in form three in 2021.
Chimwemwe said she was "hesitant at first to accommodate community action group members" who tried to convince her to return to school once she gave birth before giving in to the idea.
Chimwemwe, who is now advocating for school re-admission among her peers who dropped out due to pregnancy, encouraged girls to focus on studies in order to achieve their dreams.
In her remarks, head teacher for Khate Primary School, Lydia Chiomba commended Breakthrough Action for its intervention on child marriages as the school has registered a drop in the number of girls dropping out of school due to teen pregnancies and child marriages.
In the 2022 academic year, Chiomba said the school has registered 48 girls who are sitting for examinations as compared to 2021 when the numbers were low.
However, Chiomba said there is need for other stakeholders to do their part in addressing some of the challenges that fuel high rates of school dropouts such as poverty which in turn lead to child marriages.
Breakthrough Action is being implemented in two districts of Chikwawa and Machinga, covering four traditional authorities with funding from United States Agency for International Development (USAID).