By Chisomo Phiri
In an effort to end early marriages and promote education among girls, Malawi’s First Lady Madame Monica Chakwera, who is also Ambassador of Ending Child Marriages, says her foundation, Shaping Our Future’ has so far provided secondary school bursaries to over 2,000 girls in rural areas, to empower them and subsequently reduce vulnerability to violence.
The First Lady made the remarks Wednesday during a brief engagement with Oxfam officials from Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.
She said, her office has also championed the establishment of an education “Think Tank” and mentorship program which has managed to pair 1,500 girls to women mentors in an effort to promote education among girls in the country.
” We are working tirelessly to make sure that girls are not left behind in education and together we can educate a girl chil,” she said.
Madame Chakwera since commended Oxfam for playing an integral leadership role in providing direction of linking Think Tank Programs on elimination of violence in schools and communities.
On his part, Oxfam County Director, Lingalireni Mihowa, said the team is on a learning visit on Ending Child Marriages in Malawi and to strategize on initiatives to empower girls at SADC level.
In Malawi,despite a small increase in mean age at first marriage for women in Malawi (from 17.8 years in 1992 to 18.2 in 2015/16 among women (25–49), child marriage, or marriage before the age of 18, remains a significant issue.
Survey data suggest that 42.1% of all women aged 20–24 report being married by age 18, down from nearly half in 2010 (49.6%) but still higher than neighboring Zambia (29.0%) and Zimbabwe (32.4%).
Baseline studies conducted as part of this project found that 31.0% of girls 15–19 were ever married, with a median age at marriage of 16.4 years in Mangochi and 17.2 years in Nkhata Bay.
As of 2015, Malawi had the ninth highest rate of child marriage in the world.