Fighting child marriages with youth-driven interventions

Fighting child marriages with youth-driven interventions
Fighting child marriages with youth-driven interventions

Africa-PressMalawi. That students engage themselves in sexual relationships at an adolescent stage is no longer news. Probably, it is because at this stage, the adolescents feel the urge to explore more in life.

However, the sad part of it is that such unapproved sexual relations give birth to more numbers of early pregnancies and early marriages. To solve this problem, Oxfam and other organizations came up with a Programme “Her Future her Choice”, which is targeting the youths still in school and those not in school.

The project’s objective was to see those who dropped out to go back to school and engage in different activities that would bring them money to pay their own school fees.

The project, which is being implemented in Lilongwe and Balaka districts, also seeks to reduce early child pregnancies by making a provision of Sexual reproductive health services among the youths club that were formed.

Jean Stephano [not her real name] got pregnant at the time she was 15 years old. Today, she is 16 years and a mother to a baby. Stephano who hails from Lilongwe rural said she got pregnant in 2020 when she was in Standard 7.

“My friends had boyfriends, so I wanted to be like them but I ended up getting pregnant and i dropped out of school. After giving birth, I heard of this Club Her Future her Choice and i joined. The club helped me return to school,” said Stephano.

With Covid-19 Pandemic that also led to school closures, many girls dropped out of school with some going into early marriages. This forced parents to intervene and with the help of Oxfam and other organizations, parents formed an action group aimed at addressing the problem.

Obi Jonas is chairperson of Malili Action Group and, according to him; there is a change as young girls now access family planning methods which have helped them stay in school.

“We have managed to end 6 early marriages and all of them have returned to school and good news is that Parents are now accepting use of contraceptives as a way of keeping their children in school,” said Jonas.

Loveness Michael is a young woman from Kuthindi Village in T/A Maliri. With support from different organisations, Loveness is supporting her friends who seek family planning methods. She said the interventions have helped to keep many girls in school.

“Out of 100 young people in my village, 70 percent of them do come to me to get Condoms and other family planning methods inorder to avoid early pregnancies. There is a big change as compared to the past when we had many early pregnancies,” she said.

Lucy Goodson from Mwimba Village in Lilongwe is now 18 and she was in standard 8 and 17 years old when she got pregnant. She joined Mwimba Youth Club and now she is back in School and in Form 1.

Chairperson for Mwimba Youth Club, Stephano John, said the club has managed to dissolve 10 child marriages and five of those are back in school. The club also engage in farming activities where proceeds from the Farm produce are used to assist the Club membership pay school fees.

“Since we started the farming business and use of contraceptives among the youths, there has been a big change as now girls and boys are no longer dropping out of school,” added John.

In the area of Senior Group Village Head Chinoko Kawenga in T/A Chitukula in Lilomgwe, the same is the case. Young people also formed a youth club called Kamamina.

The club also is fighting early pregnancies and marriages through use of contraceptives among the youths. It is also promoting different businesses to enable themselves pay their own school fees and take care of their needs. Innocent Banda is Kamamina Youth Club chairperson. Banda said the club has dissolved four child marriages, so far.

“In the past, young people were involving in different immoral behaviors but now things have changed following the formation of this club. We also do Village Bank and members are benefiting from the Shares as they get loan to start businesses thereby using the profits they earn to pay their own school fees. Like in my case I do mobile money business, I have a Mpamba and Airtel money shop at the market, I also do farming business, all thanks to the club,” he said.

But are traditional leaders supportive of the use of contraceptives among the youths? “Yes, we do,” responded Chinoko Kawenga. The chief said family planning methods have brought sanity in his area.

“It is time to face the reality. We can’t hide anymore. Now our children engage in sexual activities and if the family planning methods are keeping them in school then we let them use that because what we want is an educated area,” he said.

Oxfam Programme Coordinator for Her Future Her Choice Project, Doreen Thom, said the project has made strides in sexual reproductive health service, ending early marriages and also violence against girls.

“Since 2019, 42 young people have gone back to school while 28 went for complementary education. So far, 27 child marriages have been dissolved and this is for the two T/As in Lilongwe where the project is being implemented. More good strides are being registered in Balaka where the Project is also being implemented,” said Thom.


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