As many stakeholders are intensifying campaigns aimed at bringing awareness on the need to protect the rights of children so as to end child marriages, poverty is said to be fueling the vice rendering the campaign efforts worthless.
It is understood that due to poverty, many parents force their children to drop out of school and get married. To some extent, parents arrange with marriage partners for their children.
Investigations by MIJ Express have found that a 16-year-old girl (name withheld) from the area of Traditional Authority Mazengera in Lilongwe was married off by her parents at a time she was selected to start form one. She confided in this publication that her parents, upon hearing that she was selected to start form one at a local secondary school in the area, decided to marry her off thereby barring her from continuing with her education on the basis that her parents could not afford school fees at the Community Day Secondary School.
“When my parents heard that I was selected to go to secondary school, instead of rejoicing, they told me that they could not afford to take care of me and pay for my school fees hence the only viable option for survival was to marry me off.
“At the time I got married, my husband was only 19 years old. He opened a ministry and he became the founding pastor. Much as he is a pastor, our marriage has lived short of the professed Christian values as my husband has proved to be very abusive. He even denies me to have access to medical services whenever I need them simply because of his staunch belief in healing by prayer,” she said.
She complained that after getting married, parents surrendered all their responsibility to this abusive husband cum pastor and they support the notion advanced by the husband that they should not go to the hospitals but seek divine intervention whenever sick.
“I defied them all and I decided to go the hospital to seek medical help when my illness prolonged. At the hospital I was told that I was pregnant. I felt very bad as this meant my future was shattered. I never thought of becoming pregnant at such a tender age,” she said.
Her mother told this publication that she would have loved her daughter continue with education as she is her first born daughter but with their economic situation, she had no option but have her daughter married.
Group Village Headman Kanyumbu whose real name is Robert Chalemera, said it is sad that some parents in her area marry off their daughters at such a tender age instead of joining hands to fight for the rights of the children.
He has since called on all the villagers to take care of their children in accordance with the laws of Malawi as marrying off children is a violation of the law. He has added saying parents must know of defilement laws and others if we are to protect these children.
By Mary Banda