This has been said by incoming Southern Region Commissioner Charity Kafansalire of the Malawi Girl Guides Association – MAGGA as they train school girls on what they can do to reduce cases of HIV/AIDS that come about due to gender based violence including rape.
Kafansalire said the girls are equipped with messages on HIV and AIDS and how they can protect themselves from men in terms of rape.
“These girls need to be empowered with basic information on HIV/AIDS prevention and this can only be successful if the girls know the issues that fuel the spread of HIV with rape inclusive. Mulanje has a very high rate of school going girls who are facing gender based violence and we want to put an end to this,” she said.
Kafansalire said early marriages continue to be on the rise in Mulanje and the introduction of Girl Guide clubs in various primary and secondary schools has helped reduce such cases and girls are motivated to stay in school and finish their education.
She however pointed out that there is need for coordinated efforts between teachers and learners in trying to achieve a conducive environment for these girls so as to remain in school.
“We have heard of cases of male teachers getting into a relationship with a school learner. This is what we are discouraging and we are holding hands with them to take all the female students as their children if we are to realise the goal otherwise when teachers abuse these girls, they opt to stay home and end up in early marriages,” said Kafansalire.
17 year old Alinafe Chikomo, a Standard 8 learner at Sanjale Primary School, said early marriages are a violation of their rights and many parents give away their children to older men in exchange of material things such as food or farming equipments.
“It is very hard for a girl to finish school in our area because sometimes we are forced into early marriages and when we refuse and decide to pursue school, we are disowned or chased away from our homes and in the end we just go to the older man since we are left with no choice,” she explained.
The project meeting which is known as Adolescent Girls and Young Women was held at Dyanyama Primary school in Mulanje and it attracted 168 female learners from across 12 primary and secondary schools within Dyanyama area.