First Lady Madame Gertrude Mutharika has challenged Malawians to be champions in protecting children especially girls who are often subjected to early and forced marriages.
She was speaking at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe during the launch of the Integrated Mass Media Campaign on Ending Child Marriages.
Mutharika said the campaign dubbed Lekeni (Marriage Later) should be an eye-opener and change people’s mindset on marrying young girls for material or financial gains, adding that all Malawians should be part of the solution to end child marriages in the country.
She said: “It’s sad that until this age some people are still practising cultural practices that put women and young girls at risk. This usually starts as a result of selfishness and it’s time we have to change.”
She urged people to encourage young girls to go to school to become useful citizens and contribute to national development in future.
The campaign is be championed by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare in conjunction with Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) with funding from United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).
UNFPA country representative Dan Odallo highlighted the seriousness of child marriages in the country and said these are perpetrated by harmful cultural practices and ignorance.
“Right now, about half the population of girls in Malawi get married before their 18th birthday and this is because of lack of attention by caretakers such as parents and guardians,” said Odallo.
He said the launch of the campaign is a demonstration that stakeholders are convicted to help government end child marriages in line with the legislation which allows girls to go into marriages after 18 years.
Chairperson of the committee, on Ending Child Marriages Chimwemwe Banda, said the campaign will ran for six months through different radio programmess broadcast on ZBS.
During the event, a 15-year-old girl Mary Serious gave testimony of how she was pushed into marriage by her parents in 2013.