Memory’s fight against forced child marriage in Malawi - FreedomUnited.org

Memory’s fight against forced child marriage in Malawi

  • Published on
    May 10, 2024
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    Anti-Slavery Activists, Forced Marriage
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Memory’s life changed irrevocably when her younger sister, merely 11 years old, was forced into marriage with a man in his thirties who had impregnated her. This moment shattered their close bond and launched Memory into a lifelong fight against child marriage in her native Malawi. She talked to the New York Times about her work.

From personal experience to national movement

Her sister’s forced child marriage deeply affected Memory and highlighted the grim reality that 37.7% of girls in Malawi marry before turning 18. Engraved in traditions in rural Malawi, girls are often sent to “initiation camps” upon reaching puberty, staying for weeks and learning about motherhood and how to sexually please a man. Recognizing the role of such cultural practices, Memory started challenging these harmful traditions at just 13 years old and, with the help of the Girls Empowerment Network, rallied local girls to demand reforms and better educational opportunities. This partnership formed the backbone of a movement aiming to transform societal norms and protect young girls from forced marriages, even outlawing child marriage in Malawi in 2015.

“Our campaign was very impactful because we brought together girls who told their stories through lived experience. From there, a lot of people just wanted to be part of the movement and change things after hearing the depressing stories from the girls.” – Memory Banda

Empowering change through activism

Memory’s work with the Girls Empowerment Network catalyzed significant change. Her “I will marry when I want” campaign was pivotal in shifting public opinion and legislative action. The campaign’s success illustrated the power of collective voice, especially when driven by those directly affected by the issue. Today, Memory continues her advocacy through her Foundation for Girls Leadership, aiming to educate and empower the next generation of Malawian girls. Her efforts underscore a vital truth: enduring change requires not only laws but also a transformation in societal attitudes and educational opportunities for girls.

“I want children to understand about their rights while they are still young. If we want to shape a better future, this is a group to target. All I want is for girls to live in an equal and safe society.” – Memory Banda

Through her leadership and advocacy, Memory Banda not only fights for her sister’s lost opportunities but also for a future where every girl can aspire to more than marriage at a young age. Her question remains poignant: “Is that too much to ask?” We ask ourselves the same question. Join us by signing our petition to end child marriage throughout the world!

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