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At the age of 13, Memory Banda was told by her community in Malawi that she was an adult. Like 40% of girls living there, she was pushed to attend a sex-initiation camp to ready herself for marriage. Fully aware of what went on in those camps (her sister became impregnated at the age of 11 while attending one), Memory refused to go. She took a stand for herself but didn’t stop there.
Hoping to end child marriage in her country, Memory galvanized the young women in her community who, like her sister, also had children and had forgotten how to read and write. She took their testimonials to her local leader and her community became the first in Malawi to up the legal age of marriage to 18. Memory lobbied again when a countrywide law was presented to Parliament. The law was signed in February, 2015 upping the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18. While there is still more work to be done, Memory believes that with cultural and political advocacy, every girl will be able to say, “I Can marry when I want.”
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