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Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Honourable Mary Thom Navicha MP, officially opened the National Symposium on ending Child Marriages at cross roads hotel in Lilongwe aimed at discussing ways of ending child marriages in Malawi.

Speaking at the event the Minister highlighted the significance of including chiefs in the fight against early marriages because they are custodians of culture and traditions, considering that child marriage is mostly influenced by culture and traditional practices.

Navicha then expressed concern that Malawi’s rate of child marriages is overwhelming “We are currently at 1 in 2 girls marrying by the age of 18; topping the list of those countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world. Let me admit here that a key challenge to ending child marriage in Malawi is the cultural attitudes that accept the practice,” she said.

The Minister further articulated the health risks of marrying at an early stage “Child marriage brings a lot of negativity in the lives of children. Their health is always endangered as girls under the age of 15 years are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties, and those 15 to 19 are twice as likely to die due to fistula and other maternal health complications,” affirmed the Minister.

Subsequently Navicha established that her ministry is doing everything possible to fight cases of child rights violations

“My Ministry has in the past years engaged in several legal and policy reforms aimed at reducing cases of child rights violations for instance, the enactment of the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act (2010), Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act and amendment of the Constitution to raise the age of marriage from 15 (with parental consent) to 18 years old for boys and girls in (February 2017).” Said Navicha.

In her remarks the country alliance coordinator for More than Brides alliance Lydia Fuliwa explained that the symposium will help reflect on the achievements that have been made so far in ending child marriages, the gaps and also draw up the way forward so that in the next years Malawi should no longer talk about child marriages.

The event which attracted stakeholders from various sectors including chiefs, service providers, religious leaders, and the children themselves specially girls was observed under the theme “Taking Stock: Improving our efforts in ending child marriage.”