Child marriage is a serious problem in many parts of the world, especially here in Africa, where it affects millions of girls every year. It deprives them of their rights, education, health, and future. But one woman in Malawi decided to change that. She is Theresa Kachindamoto, the first female chief of the Ngoni tribe, and she has broken over 850 child marriages in her district.
Who is Theresa Kachindamoto?
Theresa Kachindamoto is the chief of the Dedza district, near Lake Malawi, where she leads over 900,000 people. Having assumed office in 2003, she belongs to a royal family of Ngoni chiefs, but she did not expect to become one herself. She worked as a secretary for 27 years before she was chosen by the elders to be the next chief.
She accepted the role reluctantly, but soon realized she had a lot of power and influence to make a difference in her community. She was shocked to see how many young girls were married off by their parents or forced by tradition. Some were as young as 12 years old, and some already had children of their own.
How did she end child marriage?
Theresa Kachindamoto decided to take action against child marriage. She started by raising awareness about the importance of education for children, especially girls. She also hired secretaries to monitor the schools and make sure all girls were attending classes.
She then suspended the village chiefs who allowed child marriage in their areas until they annulled the marriages. She faced a lot of resistance and threats from some parents and elders who wanted to preserve their customs, but she did not give up. She even changed the law in Malawi to raise the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18 years.
She also campaigned against harmful cultural practices that exposed young girls to sexual violence and diseases, such as the “sexual cleansing” ritual where older men sleep with girls after their first menstruation.
She has received many awards and recognition for her efforts, but she says her greatest reward is seeing the girls go back to school and pursue their dreams.
Why does it matter?
Theresa Kachindamoto’s work is inspiring and impactful. She has saved hundreds of girls from a life of misery and abuse. She has given them a chance to learn, grow, and contribute to society. She has also empowered them to stand up for themselves and their rights.
She has shown that one person can make a difference, even in the face of adversity and opposition. She has challenged the status quo and changed the mindset of her people. She has proven that women can be leaders and agents of change.
She has also set an example for other African countries and communities that struggle with child marriage and gender inequality. She has shown that it is possible to end child marriage and create a better future for girls.