At one of the of the Adolescents & Youth Action Committee Meeting held in March in Salima, young people discussed a wide range of issues, key among them was the child marriage which is still rampant in the lakeshore District of Salima despite the Malawi Parliament passing a landmark bill in February 2017 to amend the Constitution and harmonies the age of a child with other relevant laws thereby securing the protection of children against early marriage.
Local and International NGOs are playing different roles to address the problem. For example, at international level, Rutgers promotes engagement of boys and (young) men for gender transformative approaches, as well as the design of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) modules that address Child Marriage (CM).
At local level, CRIDOC is among many other NGOs playing their role in trying to help reduce child marriages in Malawi through through our School Outreach Programme.
The programme seeks to establish school clubs and libraries in schools. HOwever, CRIDOC is now establishing what is known as CRIDOC Adolescents and Youth Action Committees since 2016, in a bid to reach out to out-of-school children and young people, . The committees meet weekly.
Besides the Adolescents and Youth Action Committees, we have also established adolescent girls and young women committee in Senti (Lilongwe) and Salima.
Through these committee, young people discuss issues pertaining to integrated health information, education and counseling on Sexual Reproductive Health as well as HIV and AIDS. We also use the committee meetings to distribute contraceptives, lubricants, condoms, and IEC materials such as posters, leaflets and other reading materials.
We use these structures to mobilize not only club members but even out-of-school youths in surrounding schools to participate in some of the activities (e.g. dialogues) with a view of increasing demand for HIV and SRH services within and outside the school settings.
Through our programme, we also seek to positively influence change of harmful social, cultural and gender norms, which are a barrier to SRH and the HIV response, family planning, STI, Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) services.
Despite doing quite a substantial amount of work in the communities, but as an organisation we want to do more advocacy at policy level, where we can influence relevant laws, policies and health spending (national budgeting) that promote access to integrated SRH services, and that uphold the sexual and reproductive rights of all including young people in and out of school.