Traditional leaders key in fighting child marriages-minister

Government says it will continue to work with traditional leaders in order to strengthen its battle against child marriages.

Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Jean Kalilani  made the remarks at the 62nd UN Commission on the Status of Women Conference in New York, United States of America.

Kalilani said Malawi has reduced child marriages from 50% to 42%.

She however said, for the country to register significant progress there is need for traditional leaders to add an extra gear.

“We have come along with three chiefs who will take part in formulating by laws which they have to abide by, failure to do so will equate punishment,” she clarified.

Kalilani explained that traditional leaders are the right targets since local communities have the highest prevalence of child marriages.

She said that this combined with the utmost respect these leaders have from their subjects, well organized campaigns can yield outstanding positive results.

On an additional note, commenting on the status of widows in the country, Kalilani disclosed that there are about 1 million across the country.

She urged that they need to be empowered and supported.

“Widows face a number of challenges, young widows in particular have unique problems because some are also victims of child marriages, they need to be encouraged and protected from abuse,” she pleaded.

On February 14, 2017 parliament voted to amend the constitution, making marriage before the age of 18 illegal, removing a provision which allowed marriage at 15.

According to UNICEF, Malawi has the 11th highest rate of child marriages  in the world, with nearly 1 in 2 girls married before the age of 18.

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