Ready for divorce at 14


At 13 years old, she was deemed ripe for marriage. She could not say no because her family life was well documented. Her mother had a final word on the destination of her 13 year old daughter. Marrying her meant a mouth less to feed for the parents.

She recalls being given a cell phone to talk to a man who by this time was waiting on the other end. After the phone conversation, the marriage was sealed. Mwamini Ali of Mwanjati Village, Traditional Authority Namabvi in Mangochi was given into marriage with a man based in South Africa.

Quickly, it downed on her that school was not for married people. She dropped out of standard five and started concentrating on building her marriage with the man she only knew by name. Parents from both sides started preparing her for the next life of being a wife, and possibly a mother.


“I did not have a choice. Of course our family is poor, but it is not different from most families in our village. After puberty my mother told me that I was old enough and that they should find a man to marry me because they could not continue taking care of an old person like me,” she starts her story.

Mwamini had reached a crossroads of her life. She started visiting the home of her in-laws to help them with household chores. Her husband, a 28 year old man started sending a few supplies for her.

But things changed for her immediately when her husband came back from South Africa for their wedding. Their first week in marriage was unbearable such that she quickly decided to run away and report the matter to her parents.


“My mother told me to go back and endure while I get used. But I could not manage such that I complained to mother groups who rescued me. They arranged for the termination of the marriage and my readmission in school,” she explains.

Mwamini is among a pool of millions of girls that are dropping out of school today, some willingly, while others like her are forced into early marriages.

Current statistics show that two in every three girls under the age of 18 become pregnant globally. In Malawi, the situation is worse at one in every two girls falling pregnant before the age of 18.

Some have blamed it on poverty, while others have accused moral decay as the main reason. However, some of the girls that have fallen pregnant while young like Annie Kachingwe of Group Village Headman Namalaka in Mangochi tell a different story.

She explains that when she attained puberty her parents asked their neighbours to counsel her on how to live her life onwards.

“But most of what they told me was to do with how to take care of a man. By that time a man to me was just an ordinary human being. I did not know that a man had other uses until that day. This made me interested to find out what the ladies said,” she recalls while holding her nine months old boy.

From that day Annie embarked on a voyage to discover the other uses of man on a female counterpart. While still on the voyage, Annie got pregnant while at 14 and in Standard Seven. She eventually dropped out of school and moved in with her 20 year old husband.

But in no time, her husband moved to South Africa in search of greener pastures as is mostly the case with most men in Mangochi. Six months after his departure Annie got what she still calls the worst news at her age. Her husband severed ties with her and married another woman in South Africa.

“I could not believe this. But it became real when my in-laws asked me to leave their compound for my original home. I was angry and wanted to kill myself. However, my mother received me and encouraged me to take heart and wait for another opportunity,” she explains.

Now Annie just like millions of girls in Malawi is back home bruised on a voyage that added a single mouth to feed for her parents. She is just a single case of many girls that are falling pregnant every day across the country

Of late, a lot of interventions by both government and non-governmental organisations have been introduced and are being implemented in areas regarded as most vulnerable to teenage pregnancies.

However, results on the ground show that Malawi, just like other developing countries continue to struggle to contain the scourge that has, and continues to deny girls a chance for education.

Global statistics by Plan International indicates that at least 2.5 million girls aged 15 or younger give birth each year, making pregnancy and childbirth complications to become the second highest cause of death for girls aged between 15 and 19.

In addition, it is said that half of pregnancies among girls aged 15–19 found in the developing countries like Malawi are unintended, which forces over three million girls to undergo unsafe abortions, due to some regulations that criminalise abortion.

It is believed that lack of access to sexual and reproductive health education and services is also a key factor that is causing girls to become pregnant apart from the expectations of communities on them to become mothers early.

Experts have indicated that raising girls’ awareness of sexual health, protecting them from abuse and connecting them with education and health services, can help them have an opportunity to make key decisions that can help them avoid teenage pregnancy.

Besides, they are calling on governments to strengthen national health systems, implement sex education in and out of schools, provide affordable, safe contraception and address the root causes of teenage pregnancy

But Traditional Authority Bwananyambi, a woman who also is a victim of the scourge has a different idea altogether. She says Malawi’s problem is rooted in country’s tradition and culture that continues to regard girls as material for marriage.

She says in most cases, traditional attitudes and practices lay emphasis on preparing girls for marriage and sexual partnership more than their economic and development abilities.

“The traditional attitudes and practices, therefore, have led to the problem of low participation of girls in development activities. Girls tend to be further marginalised and among the many problems that they face, early marriage is one of the biggest problems,” she says.

She adds: “we cannot always blame it on poverty. We do see parents spending a lot on money during initiations ceremonies. This money can be used to support girls’ education. The problem is that girls are regarded as wives and are forced to marry as boys go to school. This has to stop if girls are to remain in school”.

MacBain Mkandawire, a youth rights activist says the problem is in the habit of regarding sex talk between parents and children as a taboo. This scenario, he says has made it difficult for parents to freely engage their children in sex pep talk that can help them become knowledgeable about the vast changes in their bodies.

“Talking about sex with children at home has proved to be a difficult thing for most parents and guardians in Malawi. But the fact remains that children are having sex everyday if we are to consider a number pregnancies that were registering as a country,” he says.

In all cases, most parents assume that their children are well mannered such that it becomes very disturbing to imagine that their adolescent girls engage in sexual activities.

But the revelation that over 14 million girls below the age of 18 globally fall pregnant is an indication that should give parents and the whole society food for thought that can help to find new ways to end teenage pregnancies.

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