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Of Marriageable Age

In Malawi, girls can be married at the age of 15 with parental consent.

In Malawi, where Esnart lives, she is almost old enough to be married.

Esnart lives in a poor village in the south of Malawi where the common practice is to marry off girls when they reach puberty – some as young as 10 years old.

Esnart is 9 years old.

She lives between dry cornfields and the foot of high mountains with her mother, grandfather, two sisters, and brother. She loves going to school and is currently in second grade. Her favorite game is playing with a ball.

She will soon be old enough to be married.

Esnart doesn’t understand this yet, though. She is too young. But this is the tradition in her community, and for many, it is the only option for girls.

In Malawi, half of all girls are married before they turn 18 years old. Child marriage occurs more frequently in rural areas with low levels of education than in urban areas, and is largely due to poverty.

Girls are expected to help with the household chores, and many families lack money for school uniforms and basic school supplies. Young girls are married early instead of staying in school, and many feel they do not have another choice.

In 2015, Malawi passed a law that sets the minimum age for marriage at 18 years, but the Constitution states that girls and boys aged 15 can marry with parental consent. Many marriages take place informally, without papers.

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