In an effort to combat violence against children in the country, faith leaders in Nsanje district have been called upon to play an active role in raising awareness against early child marriages in the district.
During the conclusion of a three-day Faith Leaders Child Protection Training at Bangula I’m Nsanje, Third Grade Magistrate Haneeph Ngundende revealed some alarming statistics. He stated that approximately 3.1 million children in Malawi are exposed to violence in their homes each year.
Additionally, according to the 2016 Malawi Demographic Survey, the country’s courts grant divorces to 40 to 50 families per day. Shockingly, 55 percent of the children affected by these divorces are girls aged between 15 and 19, who often experience violence as they grow up. Boys of the same age group also encounter such experiences, with 70 percent of them being victims.
Ngundende questioned the faith leaders and urged them to promote awareness messages through religious teachings to safeguard the rights of children and prevent them from falling into early marriages.
Yankho Kaliyati, a representative of the Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment (FOCESE), speaking on behalf of the consortium comprising DanChurchAid (DCA) and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), explained the rationale behind engaging faith leaders in the fight against early child marriages.
Kaliyati emphasized that faith leaders have regular interactions with people in communities, which makes it easier to deliver positive messages that can change mindsets.
She also highlighted that in addition to involving faith leaders, the consortium is providing essential humanitarian items such as soap, sanitary pads, and clothes. Furthermore, they are promoting awareness campaigns to educate the public on the significance of preventing child abuse.
Bishop Tenson Tembo, Vice Chairperson of the Nsanje District Interfaith AIDS Committee, expressed gratitude to the organizations for involving faith leaders in the training. He encouraged the faith leaders to utilize the Child Protection Manual, ensuring that children are reintegrated into schools for a brighter future. Bishop Tembo emphasized that they have high expectations for these leaders and hope to witness positive outcomes in the near future.
The DCA, NCA, and FOCESE, with support from UNICEF, are implementing a ten-month Interfaith Behavior Change on Early Child Marriages program worth K173 million-kwacha.
The program, which commenced in November 2022, will run until August 2023, targeting three districts: Nsanje, Chikwawa, and Machinga.