CSR dates parliamentary committee

Although research is major function of the University of Malawi, some of the output of this research is rarely appreciated by members of the public. That is why, from time to time, the institution makes deliberate efforts to showcase the results of research to the public.

One of such events occurred recently when the institution’s Centre for Social Research (CSR) engaged the Social Welfare Parliamentary Committee (PCSW) of the National Assembly on “Understanding the Experiences of Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents”. This engagement is one of the activities emanating from a mixed methods study implemented by CSR and a Kenyan based African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) in 2021. The study focused on Blantyre District and aimed to understand how early and unintended pregnancy culminates in the social exclusion of adolescent mothers.

During the results dissemination workshop at Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe on 23 March, 2022, Deputy Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Agnes Nkusa Nkhoma, who was the Guest of Honour, said her ministry has embarked on an initiative to introduce programs that will help girls to go back to school after delivery.

Nkhoma, who agreed with the findings of the study, said the line ministry was overwhelmed with the increase in the number of school drop-outs from teenage pregnancies in the country.

“Early childbearing starts a cycle of social exclusion that often begins with the girls’ expulsion or voluntary withdrawal from school with dire socio-economic consequences. Adolescent mothers’ children also face marginalization because of their parents’ limited resources to care for them,” she said.

Speaking at the same function, the Acting Director for CSR, Dr Chrissie Thakwalakwa, said the purpose of the workshop was to share with the parliamentary committee the findings of the study on the lived experiences of pregnant and parenting adolescents. “We have engaged members of parliament as a key partner in the dissemination of information on sexual reproductive health to the communities in their areas in order to create an environment that is friendly for everyone,” she said. She added that if the country was to achieve Sustainable Development Goal Number 5 on Gender Equality, Government and other stakeholders need to include adolescence in all spheres of development and allow re-entry into schools so that girls can complete their education.

The Regional Director of APHRC, Ms Caroline Kabilu, disclosed that her organization chose to partner with the University of Malawi through CSR because Malawi is one of the countries with a high rate of teenage pregnancies. “We have set aside a number of programs, such as providing cash to adolescent girls, as one way of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals on education,” she said.

According to the study findings, close to one in three adolescent girls in Malawi begin childbearing before their 19th birthday. The findings further established that early childbearing has significant negative implications for girls’ health and wellbeing. The study explored interventions that adolescent mothers could use to secure their education and economic empowerment.