More than half of Malawi’s girls are married before they are 18 years old. As of 2016, Theresa Kachindamoto, the senior chief in the Dedza District of Central Malawi, annulled more than 850 child marriages. She also sent hundreds of them back to school and worked on diminishing rituals that require young girls to go to sexual initiation camps.
Unfortunately, Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and has an HIV infection rate of 10% of the population. In 2015, Kachindamoto was able to get a law passed that forbade marriage before the age of 18. However, with a parent’s consent, child marriage is still legal. Kachindamoto is trying her best to make sure as many kids are going to school as opposed to being sexually abused and loitered at home.
It’s crazy to think about, but these child marriages were actually regulated by previous chiefs before Kachindamoto rather than civil marriages. Therefore, she fired four sub-chiefs responsible for areas where child marriages still occurred.
Chief Kachindamoto has worked with groups of mothers, teachers, village development committees, and religious leaders to prevent such young marriages from continuing. She has inspired many other traditional leaders all over the world to take action in annulling child marriages and has UN Women and UNICEF working with her to end such terrible traditions. She believes that if you “educate a girl and you educate the whole area… you educate the world.”
Chief Theresa Kachindamoto is an admiration internationally for changing the lives of so many young women, making sure they have a chance to a bright future. There is no doubt that she is a girl with beauty and brains!