MCHINJI – The YOUTH NETWORKING AND COUNSELLING of MALAWI has accused parents in the central district of MCHINJI of promoting early child marriages and unplanned pregnancies.

The girl child needs protection so as to complete school (Pic. Agencies)

The group has launched a campaign after realising a number of children are failing to access information on their Sexual Reproductive Health Rights due to parental resistance.

The program, with the theme: Marriage No Child’s Play, aims to bring awareness among children, especially girls, and their parents against such attitudes.

Project Officer TIONGE BANDA says the bulk of parents in MCHINJI are holding their kids from schemes that help prevent practices likely to lead to early and unplanned pregnancies.

He has addressed delegates to a meeting held at MKUMBA Primary School Grounds in Traditional Authority ZULU, saying the same parents are also victims of some outdated cultural and religious beliefs.

Mr BANDA says the YOUTH NETWORKING AND COUNSELLING would like to improve youth access to reproductive health information through the project, which receives funding from the SIMAVI group of NETHERLANDS.

He says the major aim is to raise awareness on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights among young people, as well as strengthen child protection system by engaging key stakeholders.

MBC News says Village Headman MKUMBA has commended the initiative, saying it will help communities come up with holistic measures for the safety of young children.

He says it is also the duty of local leaders to ensure young people in their areas know their Sexual Reproductive Health Rights, to reduce early and unplanned pregnancies – including child marriages.

Two victims of child marriages (Pic. Human Rights Watch) The 14-year-old girl in the picture is holding her baby at her sister’s home in Kanduku Village in Mwanza District of Malawi. She married in September 2013, but her husband chased her away. Her 15-year-old sister, in the background, married when she was 12. Both sisters said they married to escape poverty. Source: Human Rights Watch 2014

Given the gravity of the problem, the YOUTH NETWORKING AND COUNSELLING meeting has attracted traditional and religious leaders, as well as parents and young children.

A recent report by the UNITED NATIONS says child marriages are on the increase in MCHINJI District, and the world body predicts as much as 50 percent of children in MALAWI will have been married prematurely./Sabanews/cam

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