Dedza - 29th July, 2016
The Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Jean Kalilani has called upon Malawians to reflect on the plight of teenage girls and renew their commitments in order to address the challenges young girls face. Kalilani said this when she presided over the Malawi World Population Day Commemoration in Senior Chief Kachindamoto’s area in Dedza.
Kalilani said the challenges teenage girls face have long lasting impact on the development of the country. She said girls are subjected to a lot of socio-economic challenges such as being marginalised, harmful cultural practices, early marriage, teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, gender based violence and school dropout.
“The girls are forced into early marriage, currently at 52%, teenage pregnancy at 50%, school dropout at 82% by higher education due to gender-based violence estimated at 44%; sexual abuse, and the threat of contracting HIV infection at 3.2% among girls. Teenage pregnancies pose a serious threat to the health and development of the girls. Early childbearing contribute to school dropout and limits the girls’ opportunities for education, training and livelihood development. As a consequence, teenage mothers and their surviving children are more likely to live in poverty throughout their lives and contribute less to the country’s socio-economic development. Moreover, the risk of maternal death is at 19% among teens and disability is higher among teenage mothers due to child bearing,” she said.
Kalilani further said that Government is committed to increase access to education and reduce school dropout rate for girls through the construction of girls’ hostels, increase in enrolment and retention of girls in schools, and the re-admission policy. She added that Government will continue to provide an enabling environment for non-governmental organizations both national and international, to work with the teenage girls on issues that affect them such as education and health.
During the commemoration, Kalilani commended Senior Chief Kachindamoto for ending child marriages and added that her work is an example to other traditional leaders in the country. She then called upon the public to also support chiefs who are working towards ending child marriages in their areas.
In her remarks, Senior Chief Kachindamoto called upon her community to unite in order to develop their area. She encouraged the youth to have a vision for the future and also encouraged husbands and wives to go for HIV testing together.
United States of America ambassador to Malawi Virginia Palmer said young women need education for them to achieve their full potential. She said girls who have reached secondary school are more likely to have good health and become empowered. She said girl education leads to strong families, communities and nations.
World Popuation Day is commemorated on 11th July annually, and this year’s theme was “Investing in Teenage Girls.”