Traditional Leaders: Leading from the Front in Combating Early Marriages.
Early marriages and pregnancies are common among schoolgirls in Malawi. According to the report by UNICEF,
about 46 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, and 9 percent before the age of 15. Usually in countries like Malawi the main drivers of child marriage are poverty, cultural and religious traditions, and peer pressure.
The report done by UNICEF further says child marriages in Malawi are often associated with limited education and employment opportunities and is seen as a way of protecting girls from out-ofwedlock pregnancy. Adolescents
are sometimes exposed to sexual activities at initiation ceremonies, association with peers and social media usage, which usually lead to sex with peers and early marriages. Sometimes, traditional leaders are also seen as catalysts
for harmful social norms that escalate child marriages. But is there anything traditional leaders can do to prevent early marriages and protect children?
It is an indisputable fact that traditional leaders can play an important role in promoting child protection and preventing early marriages and pregnancies among girls.
Firstly, traditional leaders can use their influence and authority to raise awareness among community members about the harms of early marriages and pregnancies. Traditional leaders have the powerful voice that is heard once communication is made to its community. As such they can organize community meetings, workshops, and other events to discuss these issues and educate parents and caregivers about the negative consequences of these practices.
Secondly, traditional leaders can work with local authorities to enforce laws that prohibit early marriage and protect children from harm. They can encourage parents and community members to report cases of child abuse or neglect
and work with law enforcement to investigate and prosecute offenders.
Thirdly, traditional leaders can provide support and guidance to families and girls who are at risk of early marriage or pregnancy. They can help family’s access education and healthcare services and provide counselling and other support to girls who may be struggling with the pressures of early marriage or pregnancy.
Last but not least, traditional leaders can help empower girls to speak up for their rights and advocate for themselves. They can encourage girls to stay in school and pursue their dreams and provide them with the tools and resources they need to succeed.
Overall, traditional leaders can play an important role in protecting children from harm and promoting their well-being. By raising awareness, enforcing laws, providing support, and empowering girls, they can help prevent early
marriages and pregnancies and create a safer, healthier community for all.
This can be done when the leaders have the community’s interest at heart and want to have a very developmental community