First Lady calls for more empowerment of girls withdrawn from early marriages
12 October 2021
Chakwera commended the strides the Spotlight Initiative is registering in eliminating violence against women and girls.
The First Lady of the Republic of Malawi Monica Chakwera has called for more innovative and strategic ways of supporting girls that are withdrawn from early marriages if Malawi is to move towards great milestones in the fight against violence against the girl child.
Chakwera made the remarks on International Day of the Girl Child during the screening of ‘A Girl’s Gaze’ – a documentary by Belgian Journalists focusing on issues of gender-based violence, including child marriage, girls trafficking and girls’ position in society, as well as how these are exacerbated by climate change.
The First Lady said it was disheartening to watch girls continue to face a lot of challenges even after being withdrawn from the marriages and deciding to start all over.
“This documentary has challenged us all to think through and deeply on strategies that will ensure girls withdrawn from child marriages don’t go back there,” she said.
Chakwera commended the strides the Spotlight Initiative is registering in eliminating violence against women and girls, but said more efforts are needed from all stakeholders to win the fight against gender-based violence as Malawi still ranks 12th on child marriages globally.
“I am very happy to hear that the Spotlight Initiative, which is a partnership between the EU and UN has registered tremendous results in six districts since its inception. I do hope that the good practices in these six districts will trickle down and impact the lives of girls in the other districts as well,” said Chakwera.
Speaking earlier during a panel discussion that was organized as part of the event, United Nations Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres said, besides other factors such as poverty, climate change has greatly contributed to child marriages in the country. Torres said girls are forced into early marriages due to pressures that homes experience as a result of the effects of climate change such as drought.
“Climate change has really exacerbated child marriages in most least developed countries (LDCs), including Malawi. We need to put into action different commitments made to mitigate the impacts of climate change. It is encouraging to note that Malawi has included climate change as a priority in its long-term development strategy, the Malawi Vision 2063,” she said.
In his remarks, European Union Ambassador to Malawi Rune Skinnebach said achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls are vital to building fair, inclusive, prosperous, and peaceful societies everywhere.
“It is sad that when experiencing acute poverty, families and sometimes girls themselves see marriage as a way to reduce family costs and gain financial security,” said Skinnebach.
In her introduction to the documentary, A Girl’s Gaze, General Representative of Flanders in Southern Africa Dr. Geraldine Reymenants said the documentary was developed to raise awareness and stir a debate around issues relating to empowerment of girls.
“Let us see the girls included in the documentary as individuals who are being empowered and not as victims,” she added.
The screening of A Girl’s Gaze is being spearheaded by the Embassy of Belgium and the EU in partnership with the United Nations in Malawi. Besides screening in Lilongwe and Blantyre, the documentary will also be screened for girls in secondary schools across the country.