Community Action Group (CAG) is one of the community structures that work to eliminate different social problems among people. They intend to ensure that there is development in communities where they exist. CAG does this by conducting awareness campaigns and even plays in their community as some of the ways of reaching out to people in their communities.
Some of the social problems that CAG tackles are the issue to do with harmful cultural practices that affect the lives of many young children. Such cultural practices include Unamwali and Kulowakufa where young girls and boys of ages below 15 are exposed to different harmful practices that lives their lives at risk of contracting Sexual Transmitted Infections (STIs) and even obscene language following the songs that are sung at the initiation ceremonies of these cultural practices.
With the coming in of Breakthrough Action project funded by USAID through Save the Children and implemented by Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM) at Chapomoka village, Group Village Head Chapomoka, Traditional Authority N’gabu in Chikwawa district, CAG has been assisted in reaching out to parents that marry of their children at a tender age of below 18 years.
According to the Chairperson for Chapomoka CAG, Charles Singano, the Breakthrough Action project has helped to provide techniques of reaching out to different chiefs, parents, and guardians on the negative impact of marrying off their children of the age below 18 years.
“Most parents tend to get their children married due to poverty and also financial problems. This makes a lot of children, especially girls to get pregnant and even contract unexpected Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs),” said Singano.
Singano said that the training has helped his team to reach out to many community members on messages to do with financial management as a way of ensuring that they do not marry off their girl child to be receiving money from the husband.
“Some parents tend to have a mindset of saying that a girl child can never be educated rather than get married and a boy child can also never finish his education rather than just take care of cattle and other farm products which is contrary to the laws and regulations of a country and even organizations. With the Breakthrough Action project, we have been highlighted on the education, child rights and even human rights which includes right to education,” said Singano.
Singano said that his team has managed to reach out to 4 Group Village Heads such as Chapomoka 1, Chapomoka 2, Dinyelo, and Kalua with messages on eradication of harmful cultural practices and even on the proper time for conducting them as most of them are done during the months when children are in school.
One of the households that have been reached by CAG following their training under the Breakthrough Action project is the family of Nkhambala from Chapomoka 1.
As a result of poverty, there were a lot of social problems that affected the family of Nkhambala. Nkhambala said that since his family depends on farming to find all the basic needs, this year, 2021, there has been a slight change in terms of climate, where rain is inadequate
“There is little rain that falls this year and this affected the number of crops that I grew which made my family have less money for buying different basic needs like food and forced me to marry off my child to ease the problems I had,” said Nkhambala.
With the coming in of the Breakthrough Action project Nkhambala was chosen to be one of the beneficiaries of the training where he received training on different topics.
“I have benefitted a lot from the training as I have acquired through the Breakthrough project. I have learned on harmful cultural practices, social norms and mindset change how to take care of my family, importance of loving my children and even dangers of marrying off my children and also sending them to school,” said Nkhambala.
Nkhambala said that he decided to marry off her child since there was a culture of marrying the girl child to escape from poverty. Such culture includes Chintengela.
The child is now back to school and with the little that Nkhambala can get, he managed to buy a school uniform for her girl child.
Nkhambala has also said that with the coming of Breakthrough Action, a lot of cultural practices that used to happen when children were in school have been removed.
“children are no longer going for initiation ceremonies like chokolo, kusasa fumba, Unamwali and other during school times which used to affect the education for most young children as they could miss their classes during school times.
The husband for Nkhambala, Cecilia said that her husband has changed after receiving training with the Breakthrough project.
‘My husband used to deny to buy school uniform for my child and opted for her to get married so that we should not be relieved from her demands on education. But she is now back from marriage and she goes to school
Margret said that she is now back to school in standard 6 at Chapomoka primary school and happy that she is no longer in marriage and would like to become a nurse.