ENDING EARLY FORCED MARRIAGES was placed on the effects of early and forced marriages as well as what can be done to address these barriers in their communities.
THE CASE: CHILD MARRIAGE
In most communities in Malawi, culture dictates that when a young girl falls pregnant, she has to get married. This is also the case in the Kamenyagwaza area. The tradition, locally known as ‘kulondola’, stipulates that once a girl is pregnant, she has to immediately get married regardless of her age or right to education.
CURRENT SITUATION: OBEYING THE LAW
With the assistance of the UACM project, the community agreed to adhere to by-laws against child marriages. Traditional leaders stated that those community members who do not comply with the by-laws and continued to force children into early marriages would face strong consequences. The village chief stated that “girls who have fallen pregnant should not be forced into marriage but rather they should be encouraged to return to school once they have given birth”. In addition, religious leaders pledged to not officiate any weddings involving children that are not of legal age to marry.
THE INTERVENTION: COMMUNITY DIALOGUES
Through the UACM project, YECE organized a series of community dialogue sessions to raise awareness about the negative impact of early and forced marriages on girls. The meetings were attended by traditional and religious leaders, parents, youth as well as general members of the community. In an attempt to modify this cultural practice emphasis
THE STORY OF EDINA
“I got pregnant when I was 16 years old and was forced to marry the boy who got me pregnant. Our first child is now 5 years old. Because we were using natural methods of birth control we soon had another child, who is now 4 years old. I expressed concern to my husband because I did not want to have another child. Yet he told me that children are a gift from God and we should not control that. In 2014 I joined one of the girls only youth clubs initiated by the project and after attending several girls discussion forums and life skills education sessions, I feel that I have been empowered to make my own decisions. I am now on a long term family planning method. I even got enough confidence to convince my husband to start using modern methods of birth control.”