Chiefs in Mzimba have asked non-governmental organisations (NGOs) striving to combat child marriages to reach out to the girls themselves if they are to achieve their objectives.
Paramount Chief M’mbelwa V of Mzimba said it is time the NGOs moved away from targeting chiefs and started formulating interventions that target girls.
Said M’mbelwa: “As much as we agree that chiefs have a role to play in ending child marriages, we are also lobbying NGOs to work with the girls themselves.”
Senior Chief Mtwalo bemoaned tendencies by some NGOs to discourage cultural traditions which punish those found guilty of encouraging child marriages. He said no alternative has been put in place to prevent such practices.
The chiefs said this in Nkhata Bay at a Traditional and Religious Leaders Regional Symposium on Ending Child Marriages.
At 52 percent, Malawi’s child marriage rate is the second highest in the Sub-Sahara Region.
The two-day symposium was organised by Hivos, Foundation for Children’s Rights FCR), Plan Malawi, Church and Society Programme and the Malawi Government.
FCR executive director Jenipher Mkandawire accepted the need to reach out to the girls, saying the meeting was meant to sensitise leaders on the need to reach out to their subjects, including girls, to end child marriages.
She said FCR reaches out to girls, but the challenge is that most rural areas do not have structures, such as police units, to assist in ending child marriages.