Traditional leaders in the country have united in efforts to end child marriages in the country by implementing strong disciplinary measures for those perpetrating the vicea.
Speaking in separate interviews following Inkosi Gomani V’s call last week for chiefs to diligently fight against child marriages in their areas, the traditional leaders have vowed to continue fighting the vice.
Gomani V, who is World Vision Malawi (WVM) Ambassador for Ending Child Marriages, said recently that traditional leaders should support the girl child to go to school and not watch as girls are pushed into marriage.
“Anyone found to be encouraging child marriages should face strong disciplinary measures,” he said.
On her part, Paramount Chief Kachindamoto of Dedza, who has been fighting child marriages for many years, said chiefs should use their authority to fight child marriages.
She said: “In my area, I have put strong by-laws to curb child marriages and child marriages in my area are on the decrease. A community can only develop if it has educated girls. Child marriages only worsen poverty.”
As of 2016, Kachindamoto had annulled over 850 early marriages in her area by working with mother groups, teachers, village development committees, religious leaders and non-government organisations, a feat that brought her international recognition.
Paramount Chief Kyungu of Karonga pointed out that the fight against child marriages needs to be intensified by checking on the conduct of chiefs and also changing policies.
“I have been fighting against child marriages for four years now and I have noticed that the only way to win the battle is to have sound policies. As chiefs, we need to understand our responsibilities and lead by example in championing girls education and not child marriages,” he observed.
Traditional authorities (T/A) Mtwalo of Mzimba and Kapeni of Blantyre said they would ensure that girls remain in school and not in marriage, while T/A Mlomba of Machinga said the fight against child marriages can only be won with strong collaboration between different partners involved in child rights protection.
“There is nothing we can achieve by working independently. The police, in particular, need not to give culprits bail as is the case now,” he said.
But commenting on the matter, National police spokesperson James Kadadzera said the Police do not give bail to perpetrators of child abuse, noting that the responsibility rests with the courts. WVM statistics indicate that 42 percent of girls in the country enter marriage before reaching the age of 18.