By Kenson McCloud
Government has appealed to chiefs in Machinga District to take a strong stance against early pregnancy and child marriages in the district.
The appeal was made on Tuesday when Breakthrough Action engaged 40 traditional leaders to explore how the fight against increasing cases of child marriages in the district can be intensified.
Speaking at the meeting, Machinga District Commissioner, Rosemary Nawasha, said chiefs have to take a leading role in promoting child rights by ensuring that their subjects are not marrying off their children.
“If a chief gives a directive that he doesn’t want certain things to happen in his village, it is very likely that his subjects will comply.” Said Nawasha.
In 2021 alone the district registered 435 cases of child marriages.
Out of these, 225 marriages involved young girls.
Although these figures are relatively low compared to 2020 when Machinga registered 953 cases, the district’s Commissioner Rosemary Nawasha said there is a lot that stakeholders including chiefs can do to end the vice.
Nawasha bemoaned the tendency by some chiefs to receive bribes from their subjects which she says is “fuelling the malpractice”.
She, however, commended Breakthrough Action for complementing government’s efforts in ending child marriages.
In his remarks, Chief of Party for Breakthrough Action, Alfred Mang’ando said chiefs need to be supported in their efforts through provision of relevant data that can provide a clear picture of the situation in their respective areas.
“The chiefs are already doing a good job, they just need our support to coordinate whatever they are doing on the ground.” Said Mang’ando.
Manga’ndo expressed optimism that through this engagement the situation will improve for the best and there will be a significant decrease in cases of abuse.
“We cannot immediately start seeing the figures going down; we are likely to see the figures going up, not because there are new cases but because the reporting is good.”
One of the participants, Traditional Authority Mposa, observed that the meeting will go a long way in improving their efforts of ending child marriages.
Mposa said although it is commendable that child marriage cases are slowly dropping, there is need for more efforts if the vice is to be eliminated completely.
He further said the newly introduced chief’s forum, which aims at providing a platform for chiefs to interact, will provide an opportunity for the leaders to learn from each other about the best practices that can be employed in ending child marriages in the district.
Breakthrough Action aims at ending child and forced marriages in Machinga and it is being implemented in areas of Traditional Authorities Nyambi and Kawinga with funding from United States Agency for International Development.