The status of girls in Malawi remains low due to widespread values biased against the female gender. Girls are vulnerable from an early age.
These discriminatory values result in social investments serve the male section of society more, keeping female citizens out of action.
Whether it is education or health, females have less to vital services.
In the productive sectors, women experience exclusion. Put broadly, an indispensable section within the national social, economic and cultural capital is systematically restricted to the margins of critical services, activities and investments that should build and develop the society.
For example, while 70 percent of farmers in the country are female, little on the ground ever reflects this reality.
But it is girl abuse that this article is most concerned with.
Recently I watched Tears of My Destiny, projecting the extent of girls’ abuse by parents, relatives and communities. The Nigerian film tackles the problem of forced marriages.
The language the victim of is most moving. In her words, the most beautiful thing in the world is the fulfilment of one’s dream. She underscores that girl’s dignity, dreams and future are just as important as anyone else’s.
Many parents view marriage as a blessing. In most African stories, marriage is the alpha and omega for girls.
Yes most parents and guardians believe that getting married is an open door to social and economic support, to all the necessary resources and perhaps even honour.
But the girl in the film rightly warns: “Not every open door is a blessing, some are counterfeit blessings.”
The hard truth is that marriage is not a blessing, certainly not for children who do not even know what it really involves.
Forcing defenceless, underage girls into marriage is not just as violation of girls’ rights as free citizens of the global human race. It is an assault on privacy and personal dignity. It is a serious breach of personal peace of mind and a danger to public peace.
And to the young girl in the film, there is only one definition of peace: self-fulfilment.
I agree with this innocent young African. People that are fulfilled to levels they wish are at peace with themselves, with those they relate to and with everybody around them.
Surely why can a girl not choose what her future should be? Do girls have to go through so much pain to achieve status, power and prosperity?
Girls are crying for self-fulfilment through education and the freewill to choose what they would be in life-including when, who and how to marry or never to marry at all.
“Education and marriage are two different things. One must have to do the one before the other,” says the girl protagonist in the film.
She knows her rights, but her society will allow her exercise them.
I am looking forward to a time we will not have to discuss violence against girls-when we can no longer talk of girls’ rights-because these are as granted as inalienable as all other rights.
I am looking forward to time when education for girls will be normal, debate-less and assured.
Is it not a big shame that five decades of freedom, peace and sovereignty have brought no change in the lives of girls? The majority go about doing their best with broken spirits?
For those seeking to be leaders, managing the human race ought to focus on what is right, not who is right. It ought to be what is wrong, not who is wrong.
We have to invest in how we get where we want to go because we know our destination almost by heart. Far too much has been wasted in talking and trying to define direction without action. n