“I got married when I was in Standard 8 and the girl that I married was in Standard 5. I got married because I lacked school materials so I thought marrying and being independent of parents would be a solution, but I ended up in more poverty”, 19-year-old John Magayo started narrating his story. He is one of the children that ended up in early marriages in GVH Malata, T/A Makhuwira, Chikwawa district. Just like the case for many other children, poverty at home made gave John enough reason to dropout from school and the desired to be independent of parents thereafter pushed him into early marriage.
“When I got marriage at the age of 18, I started facing a lot of challenges as I had to be working to make ends meet so that I could support my wife. I was lacking necessities like soap and clothes, but I was clueless on how I could cope up with the pressures that came along with the marriage,” John continues to narrate his story. According to him, his parents tried to stop him from getting into early marriage, but he made up his mind. The challenges that he started facing in marriage came to an end when Community Action Group (CAG) members intervened under Breakthrough ACTION project.
CAG is one of the community structures that Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM) established and trained to empower them to proactively lead their communities towards curbing early marriages and school dropout cases. After being trained by the project, GVH Malata Youth CAG drew an action plan which included activities like community awareness campaign meetings as well as door to door follow-ups on children that need their support. According to the Youth CAG’s chairperson Jonas Malata, before Breakthrough ACTION project was introduced in the community, there were a lot of social practices some harmful cultural traditions and the tendency of letting girls sleep in girls’ quarters called “Magowero” that needed mindset change.
“These things promoted sexual relationships as well as drug and substance abuse among adolescents and many of them ended up in early marriages following early pregnancies. But as CAG, we have sensitized our community to do away with such practices and so far, we have managed to end 5 early marriages and help 9 children who dropped out of school to get readmitted,” Jonas explained. The 5 early marriages included that of John Magayo.
“Together with my fellow CAG members, we had a dialogue with John and enlightened him on the importance of education and the consequences of early marriage. Since he already experienced the challenges in marriage, he understood us and an agreement was made with parents to end the marriage and send both children back to school”, Jonas narrated. John went back to school at Limphangwi Secondary School where started Form 1. The girl he married, whose name was opted not to be disclosed is expected to resume school in Standard 6 once their baby is past the age requiring exclusive breastfeeding.
John’s mother is now supporting him with learning materials although in a hard way as she is poor. After finishing secondary school, John would like to study Science in college and become and innovative scientist in his village. Breakthrough ACTION was a one-year project funded by USAID, implemented by John’s Hopkins University – Centered for Communication Programs, in partnership with Save the Children, CRECCOM and GENET, in Chikwawa and Machinga districts.