She was speaking in Lilongwe during a role modeling forum for primary and secondary school girls. This comes amidst cases of discrimination, forced marriages and rape to the girl-child despite having legal provisions against the vices.
It has also been noted that in rural areas most of the injustices towards the girl-child are enshrined in the traditional customs that most members in that particular community subscribe to. World Vision Malawi has another school of thought. It believes that frequent role modeling sessions can bring mindset change in such communalities and inspire the girl-child to excel in life.
The interaction sessions by World Vision bring together girls drawn from various parts of the country to interact with women who are accomplished in their careers and businesses. According to the British High Commissioner, traditional leaders have a critical role to play. She said they can enforce existing legislation to protect the girl-child.
“Malawi has done well in a number of initiatives that tackle girl empowerment. Another commendable thing to the country is when the President assented to the bill changing marriage age for girls from 15 to 18 years that contributed significantly to this cause. There’s a long way to go in girls education, a long way in family planning and the British government just announced a 37.5 million Pounds and another 50 million Pounds that goes into family planning so that the girls can make their choices in education and family planning. In this way we will empower women and girls while allowing them to contribute fully to the development of the country,” said Tett.
Holly Tett, British Government Envoy
While commending the country for such initiatives, Dr. Esmie Kainja who serves as Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, said the girls themselves must take a leading role to shrug off detractors on their path to success.
She said,“The Gender Equality Act work to address all harmful cultural practices that intimidate and inhibit the progress of girl-child education. Through this the Ministry has come up with a number of programmes. We work with traditional chiefs especially female chiefs and wives of paramount chiefs who are nullifying child marriages and getting out children from those forced marriages and return them to school.”
On her part World Vision Malawi’s Country Director, Hazel Nyathi, said Malawian girls must learn to report to police or relevant authorities if forced to leave school and enter marriage.
“We are committed to work with Government, Churches and the girls themselves so that they realise their fullest potential. We want to see them fully empowered to make rational decisions, politically and financially empowered to be responsible adults of tomorrow.”
Information sourced on UN Women website indicates that 750 million women and girls today were married before their 18th birthday. Sustainable development goal number five highlights that Gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) hence the advocacy on women and girl rights.
The meeting also drew participants from government departments who directly or indirectly deal with women and girls issues such as the Malawi Police Service.