Youths in Balaka have called for a change in focus among stakeholders in the country’s fight against early marriages and teen pregnancies towards empowering youths.
Speaking on Sunday at a youth conference organised by Forum for Civic Education and Social Empowerment (Focese) in the district, one of the youths, Alice June, said advocacy and awareness on the ills of the vices alone are not enough.
“It is high time stakeholders focused on equipping the girls both mentally and materially for them not to fall in the trap of early marriages,” she said.
Dophia Chigwenembe, a volunteer for the organisation, said the fight against early marriages cannot be sustained if youths, especially girls, are left with no alternative.
“Ending child marriages and early pregnancies in the country requires support towards the education sector as most girls drop out of school due to extreme poverty,” she said.
In his remarks, Focese executive director Christie Banda urged government and donor partners to consider taking the issues seriously if Malawi is to win the fight.
“Yes, the awareness may be there but we seriously have to start thinking about the victims. There is also need for perpetrators of sexual violence to be given stiffer sentences. This, on its own, will hinder men from abusing girls.”
Focese is a youth-based organisation that works on improving capacity among youths to make informed choices. It also advocates for increased access to reproductive health services with a special focus on HIV and Aids issues. n