In the heart of Malawi, forced child marriage persists despite its outlawing in 2017. Tamara’s* story, shared by the BBC, unveils the harsh reality endured by young girls.
Cultural norms and economic struggles drive families to give away their daughters, perpetuating a cycle of exploitation and abuse. Over 40% of girls in Malawi are married before 18, according to the NGO Girls Not Brides.
Tamara was one of them. At the vulnerable age of 12, economic desperation led to her being sold into an illegal union for a meager £7/$9. In the marriage, Tamara endured months of abuse until the intervention of social services led her husband to flee. She then realized that she was pregnant – at 12 years old. By now, she has given birth to a healthy boy and is receiving support from the local NGO People Serving Girls At Risk.
“She has the support of the community and her aunt, but the real work starts now. It would be better for her to return to school but she also needs to support her child.” – Caleb N’gombo, Executive Director of People Serving Girls At Risk
Local leadership against child marriage
Amidst the quiet desperation, Radio Mzati emerges as a beacon of change. Their program, “Ticheze Atsikana,” sponsored by AGE Africa, engages over four million listeners, predominantly women in rural areas like Tamara’s. This platform educates and empowers, fostering a dialogue that challenges traditional norms. As influential figures in the community join the cause, the narrative shifts towards providing education and awareness as a formidable shield against the shackles of child marriage.
“When girls have an education and they know their rights, they know they can get help to stop child marriage. That’s part of our mission, to get girls talking, to share their stories and know that there is another way.” – Lucy Morris, AGE Africa
In the fight against child marriage, local chiefs are becoming crucial allies. Despite the challenges, some traditional leaders are taking steps to discourage and refuse child marriages. However, they acknowledge the difficulty in identifying secretive unions, emphasizing the shared responsibility of chiefs and families in combating this deeply ingrained issue. As these community leaders grapple with the complexities, their involvement signals a growing awareness and a potential turning point in the battle against child marriage in Malawi.
Help end forced child marriage!
There is a lot of work to do before child marriage is eradicated in Malawi and around the world. Join the fight to end forced child marriage!
* Name changed in the original story.