Target: Joyce Banda, President of Malawi
Goal: Impose a minimum age for marriage in Malawi
Half of all girls are married before the age of 18 in Malawi, with some forced into marriage as early as nine or ten. Marriage at such an early age can hinder educational opportunities, contributing to the country’s widespread poverty and illiteracy. Young girls are sometimes forced into marriage for a dowry, while others are married to escape poverty.
In the span of three years, nearly 30,000 girls dropped out of primary schools in Malawi because they got married, with another 4,000 students leaving secondary school for this reason. Another 14,000 girls dropped out of primary school during the same period due to pregnancy, with 6,000 quitting secondary school for the same. Many of them are unable to return to school afterward, as they are tasked with taking care of a child or household, or because they cannot afford it.
These marriages can also expose children to many sorts of abuse- physical, sexual, and emotional. Some girls report being physically or verbally abused when they refuse to enter into marriage, while countless more experience the same abuse while married. Sexual abuse is common in child marriages, when just-maturing girls are forced into sexual acts.
Bearing children, something often expected of the young women, can result in health complications and even maternal death. The country’s high maternal mortality rate has been tied to high instances of anemia, premature delivery, and birth complications in young mothers.
Child marriage in Malawi is weakening the country’s future generations. Education is imperative to avoid poverty in the future and improve the country’s struggling economy. Ask Joyce Banda, Malawi’s first female president, to enact a minimum marriage age of 18, lending protection to the country’s children.
Dear Joyce Banda, President of Malawi,
Half of Malawi’s young women will be married before their eighteenth birthdays. This is causing a low literacy rate in women due to a lack of education, as well as contributing to the country’s high rate of maternal death. Children forced into marriage can be subject to domestic and sexual abuse, while children that refuse a marriage are sometimes physically or verbally abused as well.
Over a period of three years, 45,000 girls dropped out of primary school because of marriage or pregnancy, with another 10,000 dropping out of secondary school. The literacy rate for women in Malawi is 57%, compared with 74% for men.
Healthy and educated women are key to the recovery of Malawi’s economy. I ask you, as the first female president in Malawi, to ensure that all women have the chance to be as successful as yourself. I ask that a minimum age of 18 be required to legally consent to a marriage in order to protect young women from exploitation and poverty.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Lars Plougmann via Wikimedia Commons