A recent study by the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare has found that over 20 000 girls got pregnant between March and August this year when schools were closed due to Covid-19.
The ministry’s director of child affairs McKnight Kalanda said during a meeting in Lilongwe on Friday that the study was conducted last month and that the findings are more than triple the 6 000 early pregnancy cases registered during the same period last year.
He said: “When we compare the period between March to August 2019 and the same period in 2020, the differences are enormous. Last year, there were about 6 000 early pregnancies but during the same period this year, over 20 000 girls have become pregnant.”
Kalanda said from 300 early marriages among boys during the same period in 2019, almost 700 have gone into early marriages this year and over 600 girls have married early from 1 000 in 2019 between March and August.
He said about 2 000 children have so far been withdrawn from the marriages.
Said Kalanda: “Our national strategy on ending child marriages aimS for a reduction in child marriages by at least 20 percent by the year 2023.”
On his part, World Vision Malawi (WVM) acting national director Charles Chimombo said there is need to encourage parents to take their rightful responsibilities regarding care for children.
“This is a crisis and we need to do something about it. It seems parents are not taking their roles seriously and they need to be effectively reached. We also need to involve the children in the campaign against child marriages to achieve the change we need,” he said.
WVM is implementing the ‘It takes Malawi to End child Marriage’ project in which it has partnered various ambassadors ,including traditional leaders such as Senior Chief Kachindamoto, Inkosi M’mbelwa V, Paramount Chief Bwananyambi and Inkosi Gomani. Other ambassadors are musician Faith Mussa and Justice Zione Ntaba.
Weighing in, the traditional leaders emphasised the importance of constantly engaging the youth on the issues of child marriages and ensuring that they protect themselves.
Justice Ntaba suggested that mobile courts could help enhance justice for underage girls married to older men.