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Malawi, 3 July 2018: U-Reporters reject child marriage, say the ideal age is 18-25 years old

LILONGWE, Malawi, 3 July 2018 – The majority of U-Reporters in Malawi reject child marriage but believe in marrying soon after reaching 18, a new U-Report poll says. More than 8 in 10 U-Reporters (82 percent) said that people should not be allowed to marry before 18. Almost two thirds (62 percent) of respondents said 18-25 years old is the ideal age to get married, followed by 21 percent who said 25-30.

U-Report, which allows young people to share their views through regular opinion polling, currently has over 75,000 participants called U-Reporters, from across Malawi. The latest poll sought to assess knowledge and opinions around child marriage. Marriage under the age of 18 has been illegal in Malawi since January 2017. Almost nine in ten (88 percent) of U-Reporters knew this, but 17 percent still believed that people below the age of 18 should be allowed to marry in some or all circumstances.

“Child marriage is a violation of children’s rights and compromises girls’ and boys’ wellbeing, safety and health,” UNICEF Malawi Chief of Child Protection Afrooz Kaviani Johnson said. “It puts girls at greater risk of domestic violence and early pregnancy, which can be life-threatening in some cases. It also often leads to school dropout, limiting girls’ education and career prospects.”

Over 33,000 U-Reporters took part in the nationwide poll via SMS text messaging. Other findings included:Over a third of U-Reporters (34 percent) said that educating children and young people was the best way to prevent child marriage

  • Almost nine in ten (88 percent) said that if a child marriage was taking place in their community, they would report it
  • Of these, 43 percent would report it to the District Social Welfare Office, followed by 34 percent to the police.

The figures from the U-Report poll vary by district, age and gender, for example:

  • Acceptance of child marriage was highest in Nsanje, where 21 percent of U-Reporters thought it should be allowed in some or all cases, followed by 20 percent in Mangochi. These two districts also have high rates of child marriage
  • Knowledge on child marriage was lowest in Chikwawa and Karonga districts, where 14 percent did not know child marriage was illegal
  • Although a large majority of both males and females believed child marriage was wrong, this was slightly higher for women and girls (84 percent) than for men and boys (81 percent)
  • Older people were more opposed to child marriage, with 85 percent of over 35 saying it was wrong, compared to 79 percent of under 15s.

“This opinion poll is in some ways encouraging, but it also shows that more work remains to be done to change attitudes and perceptions,” Afrooz Kaviani Johnson said. “It is worrying that in places like Nsanje and Mangochi, one in five U-Reporters believe child marriage is acceptable, including some who know it is illegal.”

This is the second major opinion poll in Malawi using U-Report, a new mobile-based platform designed for young people to have their voices heard on issues that affect them. Anyone can be part of this movement by texting JOIN to 1177. It is free of charge on both Airtel and TNM.

U-Report Malawi is an opinion-based platform. Poll results reflect the views of registered U-Reporters, who may not be representative of the population as a whole. For example, they need to own or have access to a mobile phone.


Full results of the child marriage poll are available on the U-Report website at:

More materials including audio versions of the quotes in this update are available at

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

For further information, please contact:
Rebecca Phwitiko, Communication Officer, +265 999282723,



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