12 August 2017

Malawi: First Lady Urges Malawi Girls to Avoid Early Marriages

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN
(file photo).

First Lady Gertrude Mutharika has urged girls to avoid early marriages as their bodies are still growing and not ready for child bearing.

Mutharika was speaking on Friday during an Interface meeting with the youth on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and HIV Prevention and the launch of Youth Charter on 90:90:90 at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.

The First Lady warned that teenage pregnancies are accompanied by life threatening complications such as obstetric fistula.

"Some of you may wonder and ask the question, why wait? But let me advise you that there is always time for everything; so make sure you wait until you finish your education and you are financially independent," advised Madame Mutharika.

She therefore spoke to the older youth, particularly those that are of age and were probably sexually active, to abstain.

Mutharika said: "Do not indulge in sexual activities until when you get married. I know that many girls are only thinking about using contraceptives to prevent pregnancies; remember contraceptives do not protect you from HIV/AIDS".

She advised the youth to be wise and make wise choices because, she said, a sexual decision made within a second or minute could cost someone's life or guarantee that person a bright future.

The First Lady expressed a concern to note that teenage pregnancy rate has increased from 26 per cent in 2010 to 29 per cent.

She said the rise in teenage pregnancies is a wakeup call demanding everyone to take part in stepping up efforts and do more on interventions targeting young people through universal access to SRHR and HIV services.

"I am encouraged that you the youth have taken it upon yourselves to develop the Youth Charter on 90:90:90 approaches to end HIV. This charter calls us to increase the proportion of the youth with HIV who know their status to 90 per cent; increase the proportion of youth receiving ART to 90 per cent; and increase the number of youth under treatment who have a suppressed viral load to 90 per cent," she explained.

Youth Representative, National Aids Commission (NAC) Board, Chimwemwe Kaonga said youth in the country would like to use the unprecedented opportunity to better position themselves and contribute strategically to the 90:90:90 target in order to end the Aids epidemic by 2030.

He said 90 per cent of all youth living with HIV will know their status, and they will advocate for increased access coverage and quality of Youth Friendly Services (YFHS) including HIV Testing Services (HTS).

"We will mobilize adolescent to get tested including young commercial sex workers, incarcerated, men having sex with men without stigma and discrimination. We will demand for youth rights in accessing HTS," he said.

He said as the youth they will advocate for consistent availability of ARVs at every ART clinic, sensitize the youth and service providers on health rights on access to ART as well as sensitizing and addressing cultural and faith beliefs that discourage ART among them.

Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the National Aids Commission (NAC), UNAIDS and other UN Agencies as well as government they are the ones who are supporting the youths by providing the necessary information on reproductive health.

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