Katrina Shako

Katrina Shako is an ambitious girl who completed primary school in Blantyre. In 2014, she returned home to live with her parents in Nsanje where she is currently doing Standard 7. Her father Vito explains, “The moment I saw her, I told my wife that the time had come for Katrina to be married. She had grown into a beautiful young woman and I knew that we were going to be troubled with worries about her getting pregnant before marriage because of her looks.”

Girls who fall pregnant before marriage in Nsanje are subjected to a ritual known as ‘kupitadzwade’. The pregnant girl is forced to have sex with an older man during the course of her pregnancy or after giving birth. To avoid this, many families in Nsanje arrange marriages while their daughters are still young.

In 2014, Vito joined a Fathers’ Group launched by the organisation Friends in AIDS Support Trust (FAST) with support from Concern Worldwide. These groups advocate for and support children to stay in school. Radio broadcasts, developed and aired by Theatre for a Change, provide discussion topics at each meeting.

Vito has now reversed his decision about forcing his daughter into early marriage. He is an active member of his local Fathers’ Group, encouraging other parents to send their children to school. “He is on the top of the list of people who are encouraging girls in the
village to go to school and work hard at it,” says the local Village Headman Kalumbi. The family plans to send Katrina to attend secondary school.

  • This case study was prepared as part of the Gallery Exhibition to commemorate the visit of the President of the Republic of Ireland, His Excellency Michael D Higgins to Malawi in November 2014, and later to coincide with the launch of the 16 Days of Activism against GBV on November the 25th, 2014.
  • Pictures taken by : Chipiliro Khonje