Gender Issues in Malawi

Chief Kachindamoto, the Inkosi in Dezda district, is annulling child marriages within her area, and sending girls back to school within Malawi.

Young girls, 12+ are getting married and having children traditionally in Malawi. Early pregnancies can be fatal, as the woman’s body has not grown fully. Her reproductive organs and pelvis have not either, which can lead to major internal damage, with her uterus bursting at the extreme.

In 2013, Kachindamoto said there would be no more child marriages in her area. She has the authority to enforce rules if there are protests about them, and she can fire any hired figures who help child marriages occur.

The average woman in Malawi earns US$11 a month. There are still dowries to pay for a woman’s marriage. Girls cannot afford basic items, such as soap, and many people laugh at young mothers. Girls will often go ahead with child marriage so they can access these basic items, despite the stigma, believing that their quality of life will improve.

The recommended class size in Malawi is 60 people per class, with some classes having up to 160 pupils. This is, of course, an issue for everyone, but it is often girls who will lose out on education first if there is little opportunity for good learning in less developed countries.

Gender violence in marriage is very common, alongside domestic abuse. Many girls complain that their new husbands will frequently go out with other women, and not provide for them or the other women.

Kachindamoto’s movement includes building  new lodgings  for girls which they can live in until their education is complete, without their ex-husbands’ presence.

Child marriage is illegal in Malawi before the age of 18. The girls in Malawi say there is a difference between having a law and enforcing that law, between passing and enforcing it. This is largely because the constitution and the law do not agree with each other; the constitution does not ban marriages at any age, and only says to “discourage” marriages before age 15.

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