Monday, July 15, 2013

Coalition against early marriages formed in Machinga

By Lino Limbithu and Elias Banda

Cases of early marriages have not spared Kawinga village communities in Machinga District where younger girls at ages between 13 and 15 enter into marriages after dropping from school. A training in advocacy organized by ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Change Program involving community groups triggered discussions into the matter and community members sought a lasting solution. And subsequently, a task force was formed to take the matter further and the Mgwilizano coalition against early marriages was formed after consultations with chiefs and the Traditional Authority Kawinga.
During a meeting that was attended by interested groups including teachers,  police victim support units and community members, a consensus was reached giving the Mgwilizano coalition the mandate to enforce by-laws against early marriages. The laws were as follows:
1.    Marriage involving a young girl or boy should be dissolved immediately and matter to be referred to traditional counselors.
2.    Parents permitting their children to enter into marriages at unacceptable age would pay a penalty of K5000.00 (about $14) each.
3.    Any marriage arrangement to be approved by the village head.
4.    Any person found marrying a younger girl would pay K10, 000 (about $28) and the marriages would be dissolved immediately.
5.    A teacher found impregnating or marrying a school girl would pay K50, 000 (about $140)
The Mgwilizano coalition was also given responsibility to facilitate community sensitization on the child care, protection and justice Act passed by Parliament in 2010. The Act, which outlines responsibilities and roles of parents on how to raise their children in their respective homes, addresses issues of child abduction, trafficking, harmful cultural practices, and it recognizes principles that are in the best interest of children.

Nevertheless section 22 subsection 7 of the Malawi constitution allows persons between the age of fifteen and eighteen years to get married as long as they obtain consent from their parents and guardian and human rights activists have argued that this section of the constitution is a loophole for rampart early marriages in Malawi and are advocating  for the amendment of the section.

Meanwhile, through the Mgwilizano Coalition, three girls aged between 13 and 15 who have been reclaimed from marriages are now reintegrated at Nanyumbu Primary School.
The Action for Social Change Program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Machinag, Mulanje, Mzuzu and Lilongwe.

Friday, July 12, 2013

World Population Day;Malawi challenges and ADRA response

By Elias Banda
11 July was World Population Day with the year's theme focusing on adolescent pregnancy. In Malawi the population officially stands at 13 million according to the 2008 Population and Housing Census. The 2008 census puts the growth rate at 2.8 percent per year and that 19 percent of the total population were youths aged between 15 and 24, a population highly considered  to be sexually active.
Today, there are fears that youths have not been adequately reached with messages on a national scale or they have little or no access to contraceptives.  Reproductive health commentators in the local media have described the fast growing population in Malawi as a time bomb, which when it explodes will cast catastrophic effects. Population growth has been attributed to early pregnancies among the adolescents and currently it is estimated that 152 children are born per every 1000 live births.
Emily Kamwendo, a Reproductive Health Expert was quoted in the media as saying that Malawi has one of the highest early marriage or child marriages prevalence rates in the world. On average, one out of two girls will be married by their 18th birthday. In 2010, half of the women aged between 20 and 24 years were married before age 18.  If this trend is anything to go by, it means that 631 000 of the young girls born between 2005 -2010 will be married before age 18 by 2030.
Youths pose for photograph after family planning meeting.

Poverty and lack of education among the adolescents are among the leading causes of early pregnancies and early marriages. According to the Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) of 2010, young women with no education were eleven times more likely to have started child bearing by the age of 19 than those with secondary school or higher education.
The population boom in Malawi is creating a huge strain on natural resources and the national budget is overstretched to provide and sustain social services. There is now increasing pressure on the government to act on the issue immediately.
Recently, the Malawi government unveiled the four National Population Policy priority areas such as; advocacy, information, education and communication and behavior change; coordination of population programs and capacity building; research, data   collection , analysis and dissemination  and mainstreaming of population and related issues in development planning.
ADRA Malawi through the Family Planning Community Advocacy project is complementing government’s efforts by raising awareness on family planning methods and is linking communities to service providers in Mulanje, Machinga, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
ADRA Malawi is currently mobilizing and is supporting over 280 community family planning volunteers targeting over 240 village communities to increase accessibility and usage of modern family planning methods. The project is also engaging family planning service providers at district and community level to advocate for youth friendly services in health centers.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Makwasa community gets transport boost

By Stanley Mpasa and Elias Banda
ADRA Malawi has donated three ambulance bicycles to village communities in Makwasa in Thyolo district,   to ease transport challenges especially when taking patients to Malamulo Hospital. Community members earlier informed ADRA Malawi about the prevailing transport predicaments which mainly affected pregnant women in labor who found it difficult to travel through difficult terrain to get to Malamulo Hospital.
The three ambulance bicycles, with funds from ADRA International were donated through the TOT Project to Nkusa, Mangwalala and Thomasi village communities at a hand over ceremony held at Malamulo Secondary School.
S. Mpasa, (3rd  from left), shakes hands with GVH Nkusa  during the handover ceremony.
Speaking on behalf of the community, Group Village Head Nkusa thanked ADRA Malawi for the timely donation and  that the facilities would go a long way helping to transport chronically ill patients to the hospital on time.  
According to Stanley Mpasa, TOT Project Manager, the donation was part of ADRA Malawi effort to increase community access to health facilities in order to improve peoples’ lives.