Minister of Gender, Social Welfare and Community Development, Patricia Kaliati, has asked community members to protect girls from gender based violence (GBV.
Kaliati said this at Milonde Primary School ground in the area of Senior Chief Mabuka in Mulanje on Monday where she appreciated the progress of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) project being implemented jointly by Malawi Girl Guides Association (MAGGA), Youth Net and Counselling (Yoneco) and Christian Aid with funding from Global Fund.
She observed that despite efforts by government and different civil society organisations, early marriages, GBV and defilement cases continue to rise because communities are failing to look after the girl child.
“We have seen that the three organizations are doing a commendable job in making sure that girls remain in school even after they have been impregnated or withdrawn from marriages and in bringing perpetrators to justice.
“However, we have noted that because there is poor reception of these interventions at community level; such cases continue to rise and this hinders development,” she lamented.
Kaliati, therefore, saluted the consortium for its role in ending early marriages and promoting the rights of young girls in Mulanje. She advised community leaders and various governance structures to take a leading role in fighting the vices.
She also encouraged young girls to prioritize education by concentrating on their studies and refraining from conduct that might lead them into early marriages, having unwanted pregnancies, or exposed to HIV.
Speaking on behalf of the consortium, Christian Aid Country Director, Luke Theu, said the project will go a long way in raising awareness in the fight against GBV and early marriages.
“So far, about 2,000 girls who dropped out of school have been readmitted. 30,000 adolescent girls and young women have also been reached with HIV messages as well as testing.
“We have also responded to about 400 reported GBV cases; some of which are in court and others concluded and perpetrators are serving time in jail,” said Theu.
Rosemary Mose, aged 16, a Form Two student at Mulanje Secondary School said through the AGYW project, she has been empowered to protect herself from contracting HIV and unwanted pregnancy.
Mose said she has also been equipped with various skills to deal with day to day challenges girls face and how she could report GBV to relevant authorities.
“We have also been educated on our rights and encouraged to remain in school and complete our education so that we could be productive citizens in the future,” Mose added.
The three-year AGYW project has three main interventions focusing on HIV and AIDS awareness and testing, keeping girls in school and fighting GBV.