Source: Nyasa Times
First Lady Gertrude Mutharika on Saturday urged girls to focus on education and avoid teenage pregnancies.
Mutharika made the call at an interface meeting with girls and other stakeholders at Ntcheu Secondary School.
This meeting comes as one of her assignments in Malawi since she assumed the Presidency of the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV and AIDS (OAFLA) in January.
Madam Mutharika, who is also patron of Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM), said she was concerned with the increase of girls being abused in different forms in the country.
"Girls continue to face various challenges in their day to day living and some of these challenges include forced and early marriages, rape, HIV and AIDS and these impact on them negatively as such they fail to grow and develop into their full potential," said Mutharika.
The First Lady then appealed for concerted efforts by all stakeholders such as nongovernmental organizations, traditional and religious leaders, girls, including parents and guardians to ensure that girls and young women are protected from various forms abuse.
She said most of the challenges which girls face in Malawi are also experienced by girls in many African countries and that girls besides other interventions should have high self-esteem and refrain from the influence of peer pressure.
"The vices of abusing girls' rights are too many to cite. However the most and common outcome is that girls drop out of school, get pregnant and deliver with complications which in some cases lead to fistula development and even death," she said.
She then advised girls to persevere and work hard to perform well in class for them to have better future and become productive citizens of the country.
She assured girls in the country that she would soon intensify interacting with disadvantaged girls to assess their needs to come up with better assistance and interventions with the goal of promoting girls to be educated.
"The Beautify Malawi initiative is supporting about 6000 students in different educational institutions, and I will continue with this to ensure that more girls are supported," said the First Lady.
The interface meeting was spiced up by testimonies on early marriage and sexual abuse, presentations on role of girls in ending teenage pregnancies and child marriages and the role of traditional leaders in advocating for rights of girls and young women.
Before the interface meeting, Dr Gertrude Mutharika toured Ntcheu FPAM Clinic where she was briefed on services which are offered at the clinic. Later she toured pavilions which displayed different organizations' activities which are being implemented to promote reproductive health and youth friendly health services.
By George Bulombola -Mana