The Commonwealth secretariat has asked chiefs in the country to support its efforts to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriages currently on the increase in Commonwealth member States.
Head of human rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat Karen Mackenzie said this in Karonga on Tuesday during a briefing on the Kigali Declaration 2015 to chiefs drawn from across the country.
The declaration includes values and principles designed to strengthen efforts to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriages, and were agreed by human rights institutions and members of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions in Kigali, Rwanda, in May.
Mackenzie noted with concern that in Africa child, early and forced marriages continue to impede girls’ and women’s enjoyment of human rights, including their right to education and employment.
“We are here to share with chiefs the commitments made by national human rights institutions, including the Malawi Human Rights Commission [MHRC] in Kigali, Rwanda, and see how best our traditional leaders can assist us to eradicate child, early and forced marriages.
“Africa is one of the regions in the Commonwealth that has high prevalence of early marriage, and as Commonwealth we are taking this problem not a business as usual, but an extraordinary challenge because without putting much effort we realise that over the next decade 140 million girls under the age of 18 years will be forced to marry,” she said.
Among the commitments, the human rights institutions agreed to support governments by advocating legal reform, including bringing the age of marriage in line with international standards, and to support sustainable collaboration among stakeholders in regard to implementation of regional obligations relating to child, early and forced marriages.
Inkosi ya Makhosi M’mbelwa V observed that it is not only culture that is causing girls to get married at a tender age, but also their attitude.
He said the best way was to engage the girls on the dangers of getting married at a tender age.
“It is not just about what we leaders can do on our children, rather it is about the young people themselves. Due to human rights issues nowadays most of the young people, especially girls, do not listen to what their parents tell them. As a result, they end up dropping out of school and getting into early marriages.” n