Malawi: Look Beyond Ending Early Marriages-Government Tells NGOs

Mangochi — Government has urged organizations supporting interventions in child protection and ending child marriages to consider offering support to the girl child after withdrawing her from early marriage.

Principal Secretary (PS) for Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Erica Maganga made the call on Monday at Liwonde, Balaka, when she officially opened a five-day orientation workshop for five Community Based Organisations (CBOs) on Community Driven Systems Change.

She said while ending child marriage remained very critical in girl child protection, the challenge remained to support the girl by ensuring that she gets all the basic needs required for her wellbeing.

"The ultimate goal should not just be ending child marriage; the ultimate goal should be supporting the girls by empowering them and their families so that the girls do not look back," Maganga pointed out.

The PS said with the child marriages prevalence rate hanging at 42 per cent in the country, there was need for CBOs and organizations supporting government in girl child protection interventions to understand the root cause of the problem.

Maganga described CBOs as key partners in fighting child marriages adding that government always depended on them for thorough generation of reports regarding child marriages in the communities.

"The CBO is versatile in handling child protection issues because they are right on the ground and always in contact with community members," she explained.

Maganga added that, "CBOs are our eyes and ears in as far as issues of children and development are concerned at community level. We rely on CBOs to provide us with data that we use to generate reports on various issues especially those that concern children."

She hailed Firelight Foundation for the five-day workshop saying capacity building remained a big challenge among CBOs in the country.

Maganga said CBOs lacked capacity, material resources, technical skills, financial resources and knowledge in key issues in handling child protection issues such as child abuse, child marriage, exploitation, and violence against children in general.

According to Firelight Foundation Programme Coordinator, Tomaida Banda, the Foundation's main focus in the five years it would be working with the five CBOs would be to understand the root causes of child marriages.

She noted that the relevance of CBOs given their positioning in the communities adding that using them to understanding the community dynamics as regards the problem at hand would be ideal.

"We believe that CBOs are best placed because they're in the community and in touch with the children on daily basis so we are going to use an approach whereby we are not coming with solutions. We want the CBOs to go back and engage their communities to understand the root causes," Banda noted.

She added they would then come up with action plans to address the root causes as defined by the children and communities; that is what we will be supporting.

The Programme Coordinator pointed out that the second level of support would be to strengthen the capacity of the CBOs technically for them to be able to help the children.

"For the past five years, we are looking at systems approach and players key to the life of the girl child, we are looking at family, community, government and policy makers," Banda explained adding that "By the end of five years we want all these players to come together and come up with an action plan where they are collaborating and work together to reduce the incidences of child marriages."

The workshop was organized by Firelight Foundation, a multi-donor public charity fund that is going to work with five CBOs from Phalombe, Zomba, Balaka, Mangochi and Dedza, in ending child marriage for the next five years.

Firelight Foundation has its headquarters in California, USA, and apart from Malawi, it is working in similar projects in the Eastern and Southern Africa in countries such as Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia.

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