Development Communications Trust (DCT) Project Officer, Zione Mayaya has emphasised on the need for youth in Phalombe to identify the root causes of early marriages, gender based violence (GBV) and harmful practices in the district to influence policy change.
Mayaya was speaking over the weekend after DCT and youths from Traditional Authority (TA) Nkhumba engaged the community to map the way forward on policy amendments.
According to Mayaya, recent studies shows high prevalence rate of early marriages, GBV and harmful practices in matrilineal society; hence, the initiative to engage the youths to identify policy issues that are fueling the malpractice.
“Partners were coming to the district and into communities with well-designed solutions. However, these solutions were not responding to real issues. So, the initiative wants to do something different by engaging the youth themselves who are at the centre of the problems,” she said.
Mayaya said all issues that are emanating from the youth and adolescents will inform policy implementation, review or change on all the policies that are related to child marriages, GBV and harmful practices.
She added that there is a challenge in policy implementation noting that despite having laws in place, no one has been arrested for the past three months in the district on issues related to child marriages.
Mayaya, therefore, said the youth will engage policy makers at the district, regional and national levels on issues that have been identified so that the programmes that will be designed respond to real issues on the ground.
Group Village Head Mkhumba said his village formulated by-laws to hinder early marriages, GBV and harmful practices. However, not all processes were finalised hence some people were still doing the malpractice.
However, Mkhumba assured that all issues raised by the youth will be addressed.
Mkhumba Youth Network Chairperson, Gift Mawindo disclosed that the network conducted a survey whose results showed that poverty and unemployment were fueling the malpractice.
District Social Welfare Assistant for Phalombe, Bilton Mpilisi said the district has registered significant change in child marriages from 2020 where a number of child marriages were recorded due to closure of schools due to Covid-19.
Mpilisi added that during the first quarter of the year, the social welfare sector, on average, registered eight child marriages per month and attributed the change to community awareness initiatives being carried out in the district.
DCT in collaboration with government, with support from the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), are advocating the ‘Engaging Youths in Policy Advocacy and Reporting to Address Child Marriages, GBV and Harmful Practices,’ initiative in Phalombe and Zomba.