Success: Malawi Bans Child Marriages

woman farmer baby malawi

Target: Milliam Chilemba, director of the Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment, et al.

Goal: Praise efforts to ban child marriage in Malawi and congratulate activists on this success.

Human rights activists fought for a law that would bring an end to child marriage in the African nation of Malawi, which had one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. A previous ForceChange petition urged the government to ban this horrific practice, and it was met with success.

Milliam Chilemba, and her organization, the Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment (FOCESE), were a part of that fight. The foundation was formed by girls who were pressured to marry at an early age, often before finishing secondary or even primary school. This practice traps girls and their families into cycles of inter-generational poverty, increasing school dropout rates, and high illiteracy rates. In Malawi one out of two girls were married before they turned 18.

They have worked to empower young girls who are likely to drop out because of forced or childhood marriages. Their children’s rights awareness campaigns have given girls the the skills to delay marriage, reduce the risk of domestic violence, and avoid unwanted pregnancies.

The recently passed Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Law calls for a 10-year prison sentence for marrying underage and also covers a range of other issues. It grants a widow a share in her husband’s property without the need for a written will. The law also states if an underage couple has a baby, the boy’s family becomes financially responsible for the child until the couple can support themselves and their child.

There is still more room for Malawi’s laws to protect children and other marginalized groups and those laws will need to be enforced, but on this specific issue activists can be proud they got this law on the books. Let’s thank and applaud the groups like FOCESE who work to empower girls in Malawi.


Dear Ms. Chilemba, the Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment, et al.,

Thank you for your work to empower Malawi’s children, raise the minimum marriage age to 18 in Malawi, and for fighting for laws to ban child marriages.

Malawi had one of the highest rates of child marriage, which leads to cycles of inter-generational poverty, disempowerment for women and girls, and the impossibility of these young wives being able to stay in school. The ramifications are felt nationwide since about half of Malawi’s population of about 15 million live below the poverty line. Any efforts to get children educated will pay off for the entire country and it’s wonderful that Malawi’s children could now be afforded more options in life since they will not have to worry about being married as children.

I appreciate and applaud your dedicated work on this issue. Congratulations on the passing of this law that gets Malawi, and the world, closer to the protection of the full rights of children.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Swathi Sridharan (ICRISAT) via Flickr

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