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Malawi’s child marriage fight impresses Dutch delegation

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A delegation of experts and donors from The Netherlands has expressed optimism that Malawi may soon win the battle against child marriages due to the strong relationship that exists among government, civil society organisations and local leaders.

The team is in the country to appreciate some projects being implemented to reduce cases of teenage pregnancies.

The projects are being implemented by a consortium of four organisations comprising Save the Children, Oxfam, Population Council and Youth Net and Counselling (Yoneco).

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Speaking in an interview after visiting Traditional Authority (T/A) Namavi’s area in Mangochi, delegation leader Miekel Vogels said Malawi has made tremendous progress in curbing the problem of teenage pregnancies.

“We are very much impressed with what the project has achieved within a short period. The good thing is that, in Malawi, everybody is taking part in stopping child marriages. We should all agree that this is a serious problem and we have to jointly tackle it,” Vogels said.

In Mangochi, Yoneco is implementing a five-year ‘More Than a Bride’ project which is being funded by the Dutch government through Simavi.

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In the past two years, the project has managed to facilitate the withdrawal of over 120 girls from forced marriages in T/As Namavi and Makanjira.

Reports from Mangochi District Social Welfare office indicate that about 56 percent of girls in the district get married before the age of 18. This has culminated in poor school retention rate for girls, which stands at 16 percent.

Yoneco Executive Director MacBen Mkandawire said the visit by the officials, who are from the Foreign Affairs Ministry of The Netherlands, would help stakeholders identify gaps that need to be filled in the project framework.

“For instance, we have discovered from the girls that they are struggling to support their children when they [girls] are at school, so we are thinking of establishing early childhood development centres where the children will be taken care of while their teen mothers are at school,” Mkandawire said.

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