Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO), has intensified its effort in increasing access to Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) and information on issues of child marriages among girls in Mangochi district.
Over the weekend the organization conducted open day activities at Milimbo and Mpilipili primary schools in the areas of Traditional Authorities (TA’s) Namavi and Makanjira under Marriage No Child’s Play project which is being implemented under More Than Brides Alliance (MTBA).
The event in TA Namavi attracted learners from Milimbo, Unga 2 and St. Joseph primary schools while Mpilipili, Chilinga and Nangungu primary schools commemorated the day in TA Makanjira.
YONECO District Manager for Mangochi, Funny Chilembo said cases of child marriages in both TA’s Namavi and Makanjira have drastically decreased since the start of the project in 2016.
Chilembo said: “Most of the communities are now aware about the age at which a girl is supposed to enter into marriage despite some few are still ignoring this deliberately and secretly but still with activities like this one we believe the message is bringing good impact.”
YONECO project officer, Charles Mbewa, however pointed out cultural practices as some of the challenges hampering the smooth progress of the project.
But he was quick to highlight that they are working hand in hand with the traditional leaders and there is light at the end the tunnel.
Winnie Nkunga, a standard seven learner at Milimbo primary school in TA Namavi said such events are important because they help learners to understand negative impacts of child marriages.
She admitted that she has witnessed some of her fellow girl children dropping out of school and being forced into early marriages by their parents.
She however said with the presence of YONECO in the area under the project, parents are now aware the dangers of such practices.
Head teacher at St. Joseph primary school, James Banda, said with the help of mother groups, this year alone his school has registered two girls who have been rescued from child marriages and are now in standard seven.
Banda said they are currently fighting to rescue another standard six girl who has gone into marriage this year.
He added that the cases have drastically reduced as compared to last year where seven girls were impregnated and some were forced into marriage.
Headteacher at Milimbo primary school, Charles Nkunga, said his school has received three girls who have been rescued from the marriages, thanks to the intervention of mother groups.
Some of the participants who took turns in delivering messages during the events include police officers, child protection workers, Primary Education Advisors (PEA) and teachers.
The events in both venues were spiced by football matches, dancing competitions, drama and poetry performed by learners.