Rose Alexander, CAMFED Association Member, Malawi I have seen many girls in my community drop out of school, marry and have children before they are ready. In Malawi 42% of girls are married before the age of 18 and one out of ten are married before the age of 15. Rates are even higher in marginalized communities.
My name is Rose Alexander and I am part of Campaign for Female Education [Alumnae] Association CAMA. We advocate for the rights of children and act to secure those rights. Poverty is a major driving force behind child marriage. In Malawi, primary school is free, but fees are introduced at secondary school. So, many parents cannot afford to pay school fees for their children. And also cannot afford to provide school basic needs to their children, like notebooks, pens, uniforms and so on.
This leads many girls to drop out of school and enter into early marriage. Abbie was one of these girls. Abbie and her family lives in my community and I saw how Abbie loved school. And I also noted how little her family had. When Abbie completed her primary school at the age of 15 she did well and she was selected to go to secondary school. But her family could not celebrate. There was no money to pay her school fees and she was forced to drop out of school.
Abbie then married John, who was 25 years old. People in my community were very concerned for Abbie. They came to me and asked for my help. They see me as a role model and they know that I’m dedicated to ending child marriages. I reported to the Office of Social Affairs, who investigated further. They invited Abbie and John with their parents to come to their office for conversations and advise them the disadvantages of child marriages and the importance of education.
This effort helped Abbie’s parents to understand the importance of education in her marriage was annulled. Through the CAMFED Association (CAMA) Fund, Abbie has received school fees, school uniform and school stationery to help her stay in school. The CAMA Fund gives us opportunity to act as role models in our communities. We are able to assist the students who left child marriages and buy school items for them. I’ll be there, with other members when Abbie needs us to provide guidance and support.
The only solution to poverty is education. Abbie will be able to break the cycle of poverty in her family. As CAMA, we work with the traditional leaders and the government departments to end child marriages. We are trying to advise our community the importance of sending their children to school. I promised in my heart that I would never stop advocating the rights of children here in Malawi.