In a school near Lake Malawi, it is time for recess. Like anywhere else in the world, it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. It is hard to believe, but some of these children gleefully playing in the yard were, not so long ago, forcibly married… some at the tender age of seven… girls and boys alike. It was the law of the land and they had to abide. But thanks to this wonderful human being, the tide is turning on these abusive practices. She is…
Chief Theresa Kachindamoto…
… ‘inkosi’ or traditional ruler of Dedza District in central Malawi. Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries with an HIV infection rate of 10% of the population. A 2012 UN survey found that more than half of the girls in Malawi were married before the age of 18. When she became Chief, Theresa Kachindamoto discovered that her District was no exception to the rule… all of that was about to change.
Theresa Kachindamoto is the youngest of 12 siblings in a family of traditional rulers of Dedza District. In 2003, village elders and family members chose her to be their next chief after the death of her father and elder brother.
She immediately moved to end early marriages and sexually abusive traditions. Unfortunately, the Constitution of Malawi and traditional law both stated that a child could be married with the parents consent.
She decided instead to convince her 50 sub-chiefs to abolish that practice and annul such existing unions. By 2016, she had annulled over 850 early marriages and continues to engage in a door-to-door campaign with the help of community leaders and non-governmental organization to convince the most recalcitrant and send the children back to school, especially the girls. “Educate a girl and you educate the whole area… you educate the world”, says Kachindamoto!
Today, as she continues to fight the good fight, UN Women and UNICEF plan to replicate her work with other traditional leaders in Africa and beyond.
Right Your Legacy, Chief Theresa Kachindamoto!
Faces of Africa – Chief Theresa: Let girls be girls https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjYJQ_nfW5o