The story of Fatima, who is now 19 years-old, is one among many incidences whereby the rights of the girl-child have been violated in Chikwawa district. What is needed are proper and timely interventions to ensure that the girl-child should re-write her story.

At the age of 14, Fatima was in Standard 7 of her primary school studies. Unfortunately, her dream of sitting for Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations (PSLCE) the following year was shuttered when her parents forced her to drop out of school and get married.

Heartrendingly, the father forced his fourth and last born child (Fatima) into marriage just to run away from the responsibility of taking care of her. On the other hand, the mother perceived child marriage as a way of ensuring that Fatima should not have a child out of wedlock.

Fatima faced a number of challenges in the marriage that was arranged by her parents. She could spend some days on an empty stomach as her husband could hardly bring food on the table.

The man had three wives but his financial muscle was not strong enough to support all of them. Further to this, the man was a bully who used to chase her out of the house in the middle of the night. In times like these, Fatima had no choice but to sleep outside the house.

Fatima’s parents rendered a deaf ear to her complaints and sometimes they simply advised her
to get used to whatever she was going through. A few months later, a concerned community member reported the matter to Parenting Circle Facilitators who were trained by YONECO. The
Facilitators thus summoned Fatima’s parents to a dialogue session where the parents understood the gravity of their action.

Thus, Fatima was successfully withdrawn from the marriage and was given psychosocial and material
support to return to school. Last year, Fatima’s 19th birthday present was the 19 points she scored in
her Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE).

“I am happy that I have attained an MSCE and my next step is to go to nursing school. The sky is not
the limit,” said Fatima with a very visible grin on her face. Chikwawa is one of the districts in Malawi with high prevalence of child marriages due to various reasons which include high illiteracy levels, poverty, lack of role models especially to young girls as well as harmful cultural practices among other things.

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