Popular music about early marriages in Malawi: a case study of UNFPA’s safeguard young people song “Chimanga”

Kalua, Fred Penjani Kamlepo
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Background In Malawi, several health communication interventions dating from the 1980s, have been used as strategies for addressing a range of social issues. More recently, government agencies and international and local Non Governmental Organizations ( have begun to use popular music to address early marriage in Malawi. United Nations Population Fund ( through a campaign called Safeguard Young People ( used a song Chimanga to spread messages about early marriage to youth 10 24 years. Chimanga was developed and performed by a local hip hop artist Gwamba. However, SYP and Chimanga had not been evaluated to ascertain their impact. The aim was to examine how an intervention using popular music to address early marriage was developed, its messages, and how youth (18 24 years), parents and guardians in Blantyre rural, Malawi, responded. Methods: This case study was done in Mpemba, which is in the rural part of Blantyre situated in the Southern region of Malawi. This case study used the qualitative methods of Focus G roup Discussions ( and key informant interviews. Four FGDs were conducted; two with parents (eight males and 10 females) and two with youth 18 24 years (10 males and 10 females). T wo key informant interviews were conducted, one with the SYP personnel and one with the SYP artist Gwamba. Inductive thematic analysis was conducted using MAXQDA. Results Although few participants reported expos ure to the song before this study, once they listened, they understood the key messages about early marriage ( in the song Chimanga It is not reported or documented that those targeted by the song participated in the choice or artist, genre and message development However, Youth audiences were able to report drivers of EM, its health implications and how it generally affects the society at large. The same was the case for parents. Youth identified with the genre and were more familiar with the artist unlike most parents. The re were different views as to the relevance of the cultural practices mentioned in the song. Most parents especially male respondents dismissed their relevance while the youth and female parents maintained that some of the cultural practices in the song do happen in their community. Conclusion This study reveals that music can be used as a health communication strategy and approach to disseminate messages about early marriage and other health related issues. Through the song, ‘ the target audi ence reported to have understood the key messages about early marriage. However, there is no empirical evidence that Chimanga the song had any influence on behavior or attitude change among the target population. There is a need to further investigate the possibility of a song to influence changes in attitude or behavio u r for future SBCC interventions considering to use music as an approach or strategy.
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Public Health to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2020