Written by Chimwemwe Njoloma
The First Lady, Madame Monica Chakwera on Friday joined the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child (IDG) at a dinner held at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe.
Organised by Plan International Malawi, the year 2020 was being commemorated globally under the theme ‘My voice, our equal future’. The event attracted notable figures including spouse to the Vice-President, Madame Mary Chilima, speaker of the national assembly, Catherine Gotani Hara and the global community just to mention a few.
Delivering her speech, Madame Chakwera said the world needs to stand and protect a girl child by giving her equal opportunities to education despite all the challenges encountered. Madame Chakwera made reference to her story, saying she grew up in an environment where she could have easily dropped out of school due to circumstances that surrounded her.
“I am grateful that my mom supported me. There are several challenges that hinder a girl child from furthering her studies and those include poverty, hunger and selfish motives.
“I grew up in a very poor environment, but my mom fought all odds to make sure that I continued with my education.
“That’s the spirit that all mothers need to have for a girl child to excel. My personal commitment comes from my childhood experiences. My mother and my brothers fought for me and here I am. This is the same way I am going to fight for all girls,” said Chakwera.
She said mothers in the village need to be sensitised on the importance of educating a girl child. “Let me commend our traditional leaders who are working tirelessly to make sure that they end early child marriages. We look forward to more of this to be able to protect our girls. We should be drivers of mindset change”.
“My mom was not educated but at her level, she made sure we got educated. She worked so hard and supported us all the way. Let’s join forces and promote a girl child to go to school no matter the circumstances,” she said.
Commenting on the issue, Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati said her ministry will ensure that it dissolves all child marriages. “Our work is guided by the National Strategic Plan of 2018/2023, where we indicated that we are going to end child marriages.
“As of now, we have dissolved over 4,000 marriages and have identified 40,000 child marriages and 15,000 early pregnancies,” said Kaliati.
She said government is committed and is working hard to make sure that all child marriages identified are dissolved and get the girls back to school.
The Minister called upon parents and guardians to desist from marrying off girls and warned that the law will take its course on those that will be found abusing a girl child.
Madame Chakwera was later crowned as Ambassador for Ending Child Marriages and signed a petition on cyber bullying and harassment.
In her speech, Plan International Malawi Country Director, Phoebe Kasoga said the organisation strives to advance children’s rights and equality for girls in everything it does.
She said the organisation has also set an ambitious target to assist 100 million girls worldwide, including 3.2 million girls in Malawi between 2017/2022.
Kasoga said they have provided spaces for girls to be engaged using media through their partner Timveni, a child and youth media radio and television program.
“We have worked with the Ministry of Gender to address topical issues of escalating numbers of child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
“We have engaged in different work methodologies and approaches and these include strategic engagement with government, partnerships with local NGOs and networks of girls among other.
“That will help us to attain freedom online by ending bullying and online harassment,” she said.
At the event, Madame Chilima was crowned Ambassador against Cyber Bullying and Harassment and later offered her acceptance speech.
Gotani Hara and her Deputy Aisha Mambo Adams were also crowned ambassadors for Girls Get Equal Education.
Plagues were also presented to Inkosi ya Makhosi M’mbelwa of Mzimba, Senior chiefs Theresa and Bwananyambi for their efforts in ending child marriages.
Madame Chakwera urged stakeholders to join hands and build more girls’ hostels across the country to help keep them in school.