LILONGWE, Malawi — Privately owned radio station Zodiak Broadcasting Station has been tasked to help end the increasing number of child marriages in this Southern Africa country.
First lady Getrude Mutharika presents the inaugural program “Lekeni” live during its launch in the capital city, Lilongwe. During the show she hosted Tamando Chimombo, a young girl who was extracted from early marriage.
A recent demographic health survey published by the government shows that half of the girls in Malawi marry before the age of 18, one of the world's highest rates of child marriage.
This is largely attributed to poverty, which leads some families to force their female children into marriage in order to receive gifts or money to supplement family income.
“LEAVE ME ALONE”
Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries with 65 percent of its people living below less than a dollar a day, according to the World Bank. With the help of the United Nations Population Fund and Malawi government, ZBS launched a US$40,000 campaign in an attempt to improve the situation.
Chairperson of the task force leading the campaign for ZBS, Chimwemwe Banda, says the “Lekeni” (“Leave Me Alone”) campaign will run for six months.
“During this campaign period, which runs from June to November, we have 28 radio programs of 25 minutes each. They are broadcast in the local language (Chichewa) every Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.”
Malawi’s first lady Getrude Mutharika hugs Tamando Chimombo, congratulating her for quitting early marriage and choosing to continue her education.
First lady Gertrude Mutharika hosted live the inaugural program, also called “Lekeni,” during its official launch in June in the Malawian capital of Lilongwe. During the 10-minute show, Mutharika interviewed a girl who was removed from an early marriage and she is now continuing her education.
For the campaign, the station’s programs are presented and produced by Tiyamike Phiri and Joab Frank Chakhaza and they feature different segments, including interviews, panel discussions and outside broadcasts for village debates.
In addition the project involves the use of social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook to spread messages.
The station is also airing announcements, jingles and advertisements that contain messages discouraging early marriages, as well as encouraging young girls to pursue their education.
This is not the first time ZBS has broadcast programs aimed to improve the condition of young women in the country. Since 2006, the station has been offering them scholarships to study in countries like China, Russia and the United States.
“This project speaks of values that are also part of our brand’s values, said ZBS Managing Director Gospel Kazako. “ZBS believes that the rate of Malawi’s development can triple or even quadruple if we just start paying attention to issues affecting women and young girls.”
ZBS reaches over 95 percent of the country’s population, targeting an audience of 18- to 45-year olds.
The broadcaster has for the past 10 years been voted the best electronic media house at the annual media awards organized by the Media Institute for Southern Africa as part of the annual commemoration of World Press Freedom Day.
Lameck Masina reports on the industry for Radio World from Blantyre, Malawi.