Over 300 girls rescued from forced marriages in Karonga

Livingstonia Synod Aids Program (LISAP) of the Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP) Livingstonia Synod has rescued about 300 girls from forced marriages in traditional authorities Kilupula and Mwakawoko in Karonga District.

The feat has been achieved courtesy of the Boys’ and Girls’ Empowerment Project LISAP has been implementing in the past six years in four education zones of Iponga, Ighembe, Mwenitete and Nkando.

Among other objectives, the project sought to impart knowledge in the youth on sexual reproductive health and promote increased access to continued education for boys and girls in areas where harmful traditional practices were rampant.

Speaking to Malawi News Agency in an interview when he presided over the handover ceremony of 141 bicycles to community members trained by LISAP at Ighembe recently, the organization’s deputy director, Lazarus Harawa, said one of the project’s objectives has been achieved as over 300 girls have been withdrawn from early and forced marriages.

“Karonga District is one of the districts in the country where forced marriages are rampant and we are happy to see that our interventions have produced fruits as cases of early marriages have drastically reduced in the past three years,” he said.

According to Harawa, at the beginning of the project there was resistance by communities as early marriages were a way of life in the two areas (T.As Kilupula and Mwakawoko). He said after awareness meetings the communities began to change their minds and joined in the fight for the girl child.

“We could not have over 300 girls withdrawn from early marriages and returned to school without mother and father groups. They were key towards the high number of girls who were withdrawn,” said Harawa.

He has since challenged the mother and father groups not to relent in the fight against early marriages, saying it is their duty to sensitize others on the importance of education and make follow ups on girls who drop out of school.

The bicycles given to trained mother and father groups are expected to assist the group members to travel widely and to distant places when cases of forced or early marriage arise in the future.

A representative of T.A. Mwakaboko said the chief’s area was humbled with the bicycle donation but warned the communities to use the bicycles for their intended purpose.

He said the fight for the girl child had just begun and appealed to the people to take issues of early and forced marriages head-on to get rid of them from the areas.

41 bicycles have been given to Nkando Education Zone in the area of Paramount Kyungu, while the rest (out of 141) were distributed to LISAP groups at Mwenitete, Ighembe and Iponga in T.As Kilupula and Mwakaboko.

The Scottish Government has been funding the project since 2010 through Tear Fund-Malawi. It is reported the project was motivated by the forced marriage of a seven-year old girl into a polygamous family.

Source: Malawi News Agency