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400 girls withdrawn from early marriages

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Over 400 teenage girls have been rescued from marriages in Karonga District, thanks to the efforts of a women’s group under the ‘Reaching Mother and Child for Health Project’.

The maternal and neonatal health project is being jointly implemented by the Foundation for Community Support Services (Focus) and Adventist Health Services (AHS) with funding from Christian Aid.

Focus Executive Director, Kossam Munthali, said on Friday that they incorporated the girls’ programme in the project after observing that significant cases of birth complications arise in girls who fall pregnant before reaching 18 years.

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He said women’s groups dubbed Sasa [Start, Awareness, Support and Action] have been able to dialogue with all the 110 chiefs in the district on the need to abolish all harmful practices that expose girls to early marriages.

“We realised that, no matter how much we advocate proper maternal and neonatal health, there will always be a missing link if our girls continue getting married and giving birth at a tender age,” said Munthali.

He further disclosed that, since the signing of the Sumuka Inn Declaration last year, traditional leaders have put in place by-laws focused on curbing child marriage cases.

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“Money is in high circulation in Karonga District, such that older men easily lure teen girls to bed. They take advantage of the girls’ poverty. So, we have engaged local leaders, who have in turn employed punitive measures for the culprits and the strategy seems to be working,” Munthali added.

Commenting on the development, Chirumba- Sasa women’s group leader, Enala Nguru, called on stakeholders to establish proper support systems to sustain the lives of girls who have been rescued from the jaws of early marriages.

“Most of these girls lack financial support to stay in school, and the babies are an extra burden on them and the parents. Therefore, I am appealing to stakeholders to come in and support them,” Nguru said.

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