Memory Banda calls on men to join in the fight against child marriage

Memory Banda is an 18-year-old Malawian who championed a successful national campaign that culminated in landmark legislation that outlawed child marriage in her country. In a recent talk for Tedwomen 2015 she discusses how she managed to escape the cycle that turns half of the girls in her southern African nation into brides, and often mothers, by the age of 18.

While those around her dismissed her passion as stupidity and wilfulness as perversity, she knew what she wanted in life – to be a lawyer. Her sister Mercy was not so lucky. At 11, Mercy was impregnated during a traditional sexual “cleansing ceremony” that is intended to prepare pubescent girls for womanhood and marriage. She was then forced to marry the man who impregnated her, but the marriage did not last. Now at 16, Mercy already has three children and with her dreams of becoming a teacher on hold.

Child marriage remains rapid throughout the continent, in spite of efforts at both international and national levels. In February this year, Malawi passed legislation which changed the legal marriage age from 15 to 18 years. Even though most countries have set the legal age of marriage to 18 years the acts are more difficult to domesticate at state levels, particularly in countries like Nigeria. Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa with the highest rate of child marriage even though the legal age of marriage is 18.

While Banda’s call to end child marriage rests amidst efforts throughout the globe, her plea is far from redundant. By calling on men to join the fight against child marriage, one can only hope that her wish to eradicate child marriage in this generation will come with a response from the other half of the world’s population.

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