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Wednesday, 16 September 2015 16:28

Commonwealth drills Malawi Chiefs on Kigali Declaration

Written by  Bishop Witmos

Karonga, September 16, 2015: The Commonwealth Secretariat has asked chiefs in the country to support its efforts to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriages which it says are on the increase amongst the Commonwealth member states, including Malawi.

The aim of soliciting support from the country’s traditional leaders is to alleviate the plight of young girls by giving back to them their human rights.

Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Karen Mackenzie, made the request Tuesday in Karonga during a briefing workshop of selected chiefs in the country on the Kigali Declaration-2015.

According to Mackenzie, in May this year (2015), human rights institutions and members of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights institutions agreed in Kigali-Rwanda on the values and principles that aim at strengthening efforts to prevent and eliminate child early and forced marriages.

The Commonwealth official said in Africa, child, early and forced marriages continue to oppress girls’ and women’s enjoyment of human rights, including their right to education and employment.

It was in this regard that among other players, Mckenzie saw that chiefs in the country were better placed to play a critical role in enforcing laws that would help to end the vices that impede on the rights of girls and women.

‘‘We are here to share with chiefs the commitment made by national human rights institutions, including the Malawi Human Rights Commission in Kigali-Rwanda, and see how best our traditional leaders can assist us to eradicate child, early and forced marriages.

“Africa is one of the regions in the Commonwealth that has high prevalence of early marriages. As Commonwealth, we are taking this problem not a business as usual, but an extraordinary challenge because without putting much effort, we realize that over the next decade 140 million girls under the age of 18 years will be forced to marry,’’ said Mckenzie.

She said among other commitments, the human rights institutions agreed to support their respective governments by advocating for legal reforms, including putting the age of marriage in line with international standards.

The other commitment was to support sustainable collaboration among stakeholders (on girls’ and women’s rights) in the implementation of regional obligations on child, early and forced marriages.

In his remarks, Inkosi ya Makhosi M’Mbelwa the Fifth of Mzimba observed that nowadays it is not only culture that is influencing girls to get married at a tender age, saying the girls’ own attitude also drives them into early marriages.

To deal with the challenge, the Ngoni Chief said there is need to encourage dialogue with the girls themselves on dangers of getting married at a tender age.

‘‘The best way to deal with early marriages in our communities is to have dialogue with the children time and again,’’ said Paramount Chief M’mbelwa.

During the workshop which ends on Friday this week, the chiefs who are drawn from across the country are expected to share best practices and action points that would help Malawi to arrest the problem of child, early and forced marriages.

Some of the notable chiefs at the meeting include Paramount Chief Kyungu of Karonga, Senior Chief Chowe of Mangochi, Senior Chief Kachindamoto from Dedza and Senior Chief Lukwa from Kasungu.

Malawi is one of the 53 member states of the Commonwealth of Nations.