In April 2017, Malawi president Peter Murtharika signed an amendment into law to outlaw child marriage in the country following a vote in Parliament.
This amendment has greatly affected the role of women and girls in Malawi, because prior to the amendment, girls were allowed to marry at age 15. Consequently, Malawi is ranked 11th in child marriage around the world; however, with the introduction of the new amendment, girls will not be allowed to marry if they are under the age of 18.
Child marriage was a large problem in Malawi and posed various challenges to the lives of girls, including limited access to a proper education. According to Jill Filipovic of The Guardian, girls who are married and have children in their early teenage years find it difficult to obtain an education while maintaining their roles as wives and mothers. Also, a lack of hygiene products like tampons and pads is a serious issue for girls who attempt to receive an education, because girls have to stay home during menstruation if they do not have the proper hygiene products.
However, many steps have been taken to increase girls’ access to education in Malawi. President Murtharika’s amendment to outlaw child marriage was an important step in the right direction for girls, and there are many organizations that are helping girls as well. For instance, the organization Girls Not Brides takes action against countries in which child marriage is allowed.
Furthermore, in May 2017, Neetha Tangirala from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) reported that radio has served as a “primary source of news and information” for the people of Malawi, including women and girls.
Marshall Dyton, a Mandela Washington Fellow, hosted a radio show in order to stress the importance of girls’ education in Malawi. Dyton’s two-hour-long radio show reached an audience of approximately three million people.
USAID highlights the importance of community inclusion in the fight for gender equality in impoverished areas. Dyton’s radio show is a great example of the work many people are doing to improve girls’ education in Malawi. The radio show, which was organized by the Girl Child Education movement and funded by USAID, helped to start conversations in communities regarding the importance of girls’ education.
The outcome of the radio show was immense; following the broadcast of the radio show, the Muslim Association of Malawi was persuaded to increase access to information regarding education in some of the most rural areas of Malawi. The fight for girls’ education in the wake of the outlaw of child marriage in Malawi is only just beginning.
– Emily Santora