Youth advocates recently took advantage of the meeting on Evidence Based National Advocacy on Child Marriage, Gender Based Violence and Harmful Practices that took place in Lilongwe to appeal for mobile courts to address child marriages and other sexual related crimes in rural areas.
Development Communication Trust (DCT) and Parent and Child Health initiative (PACHI), with support from UNICEF, organised the meeting at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe, which was attended by the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare officials, child-focus organizations and youth advocates, among others.
Deputy Director in the Department of Child Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Justin Hamera said there was a need for local authorities to provide opportunities for the youth to participate in decision making on issues to deal with child marriages and other child rights violations.
He said child marriages are becoming common in Malawi compared to other countries because young people are considered observers in most discussions that take place to discuss issues to do with their well being.
Hamera therefore called on decision makers to give better opportunities for the youth to voice out concerns so that solutions to child marriages, gender based violence and harmful practices and other social concerns should be evidence based.
The Deputy Director was deeply concerned with issues presented by the youth advocates and was equally satisfied with their call for mobile courts.
The youth advocates also called for introduction of One Stop Centers with adequate personnel in all the districts and in most major health facilities to handle issues affecting children.
Hamera therefore thanked DCT and PACHI for organizing the meeting which he said was in line with the Ministry’s policy of providing a platform for children to voice out their concerns and be part of decision making.
He however expressed concern over non availability of one stop center in some districts saying this was a setback to ways and means of addressing issues affecting children welfare.
“Government and UNICEF intend to stop violations of child rights, gender based violence and harmful practices that affects children in the country. We thank the youth advocates for voicing out concerns on issues that negatively affect children” the Deputy Director added.
DCT Executive Director, Prince Mtelera said his organisation in partnership with PACHI introduced a project that deals with child marriages and gender based violence in Zomba, Phalombe and Neno.
Mtelera observed that there are a number of factors that contribute to child marriages citing poverty and cultural practices which he said were harmful to children’s health and well being on top of violating their right to education.
He thanked youth advocates from Zomba, Phalombe and Neno for being active in the fight against child marriages.
One of the youth advocates from Neno, Taona Zipangeni said the meeting at Crossroads Hotel was important because it triggered additional activism to fight against child marriages.
Zipangani thanked DCT and PACHI for providing a platform for the youth advocates to voice out their concerns over child marriages and other related violences against children.
Apart from the youth advocates, Paramount Chief Kaduya of the Lhomwes, Senior Chief Malemia of Zomba, UNICEF officials also attended the Evidence Based National Advocacy on Child Marriage meeting.