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A Story of Two Strangers and Child Marriage

Updated: Feb 17

Most of us, particularly those who are active on social media have heard the story of how Maureen,a young Malawian woman selflessly assisted a 16-year-old girl from Mali to get home safely. For anyone who might’ve missed it, the story begins on the day Maureen was travelling from Blantyre to Lilongwe. Upon reaching Kameza, in Blantyre, she was approached by a woman who asked her to pick up a young girl to Lilongwe with the instructions that the said girl doesn't understand Chichewa.

Upon reaching Lilongwe,Maureen later learnt that the girl was in fact in great distress as she had just escaped a child marriage arrangement orchestrated by her family in Mozambique . This girl was all alone in a strange country trying to get to her brother back in Mali, with only MWK 14,000 in her pocket.

Everyone was touched by this story and thankful to Maureen, who went out of her way to help a stranger get out of the country to safety. Despite the fact that it cost her a lot of money and even put her at a risk of possible arrest on grounds of human trafficking.

When we hear of child marriage, it often feels distant, almost as if it doesn't exist. However, statistics and studies show that the problem is closer than we realize and, in fact, very large. Malawi has the world's 12th highest rate of child marriage, according to a UNICEF 2020 report, with 46 percent of girls married before the age of 18 and nearly one in ten married before their 15th birthday. That's how big the issue is and how close it is to you and me. And the figures continue to grow.

Girls in rural areas, particularly those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, are frequently victims of child marriages. These girls are unable to flee because they have nowhere else to go and have no other options apart from staying in these arranged marriages. There is a lot we can do to save these girls from losing their childhood, and their human rights to marriages. If Chief Kachindamoto managed to end 3500 child marriages and counting, and successfully helped these girls complete their education, there is definitely a lot that can be done if there is a strong partnership among the young girls, parents, and community leaders.

These young girls are victims and must be regarded as such. We must continue empowering our girls, we must make sure that they are ware of their rights and well informed on where they can get assistance if they are trapped in a similar situation. As a community, we ought to band together and build a fortress to protect these young girls.

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