"No child should be found loitering at home; gardening or doing any house hold chores during school time. No village head, GVH or church clergy to officiate marriage before scrutinizing the birth dates of the couple."
Malawi is said to be one of the poorest countries in the world, and they still follow centuries-old tribal practices, like child marriage, according to The Epoch Times. It seems they are still behind when it comes to the humanitarian standards set by the rest of the world. Luckily, one regional district in the Eastern African nation chose to elect a woman leader named Theresa Kachindamoto in 2003. This was when things began to change for the better. From then to now, in 16 years, she’s used her position to bring her people into the present day, and she's done it in a way that it has garnered her the respect of the people she governs. Theresa Kachindamoto is the youngest of her 12 siblings. She was born in Dedza District, which resides near Lake Malawi along the border between Malawi and Mozambique.
Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, a Ngoni leader, received a Leadership in Public Life Award @ the Annual Vital Voices Global Partnership Awards, in recognition 4 her "fierce leadership" in annulling over 2000 child marriages& sending girls back to school #gripthttps://t.co/S4Kh1gTbgc— gript (@griptmedia) September 15, 2019
She worked as a secretary in a college for 27 years in Southern Malawi, and then she was elected by her people because she had a reputation for being “good with people.” She was quoted in later years as being told that she was informed of her new leadership role whether she wanted it or not, but reluctant or not, it did not take her a long time to make good use of that role and use it to save the lives of thousands of girls in her district.
"Theresa Kachindamoto had never held the ambition to become chief. She lived in a different town & had older siblings. But despite that, her reputation for being “good with people” secured her an unexpected election." #NwanyiBuIfe #CelebratingWomenWhoDAREhttps://t.co/xFfRAcIszv— iSERVE 2050 | #LeadershipMatters #NwanyiBuIFE #ABC (@iSERVE2050) September 10, 2019
Till date, Malawi is one such place where child marriages still prevail, but Kachindamoto is doing her bit to stop innocent children from being married to older men. Malawi is a country where half of the girls who live in the nation are married before their 18th birthday, and as many as a quarter of the country’s maternal deaths occur due to teen pregnancy, as it can cause severe complications due to increased difficulty gaining weight and getting the adequate nutrition.
We need more heroes like Chief Theresa Kachindamoto. During her time as chief of more than 900,000 people, she annulled 850 child marriages and sent all of the girls to school. #WomenIgnitingChange #NotAllHeroesWearCapes https://t.co/jHF0iJ9Cxd pic.twitter.com/PTi7QLNDM0— Women Igniting Change® (@womenigniting) September 11, 2019
As of 2017, Kachindamoto used her role to annul over 1,500 child marriages and she sent these girls back to school as they were married before they could complete their education. This was actually a step in the right direction in ending the cycle of poverty found in Malawi, where a statistic reported in 2017 by the UN suggested that nearly 45 percent of young girls are unable to remain in school past eighth grade.
This didn't seem to stop Kachindamoto down. She wanted to achieve more, although it took years of changing the culture and influencing the political leaders. Kachindamoto truly ushered in a sense of permanence in the new era for Malawi women by passing legislation to ensure the old cultural practices didn’t persist. “I told [my people]: ‘Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated.’”
#FemalePower— Jena Ball (@JenaiaMorane) September 7, 2019
I LOVE Theresa Kachindamoto. As the new chief of the. Malawi people she annulled 850 child marriages anD sent girls back to school: https://t.co/b134dnYxUG@Alyssa_Milano @Raffi_RC @johnpavlovitz @GoodMenProject @Brightgirlsco @inclusionchick @RitaWirtz @KayKosmos pic.twitter.com/6CkaQ3Zvex
She helped the entire nation of Malawi to adopt a constitutional amendment and raised the legal age to get married from 15 to 18. This caused a massive jump in the possibilities for these girls to keep going to school. Even though sometimes, these tribal practices do fall outside of the country’s laws, she’s done her part within her own community to educate families on why it helps them in the long run to end the practice of these early marriages.
📸: Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, a tribal chief in Malawi with over 900,000 people under her command has annulled over 1000 child marriages & put back all the girls in school. 50% of the women in Malawi get married before 18, she goes from door to door to rescue these girls. pic.twitter.com/stD3kjpHRP— 🌍🔍 (@historyintwits) June 26, 2019
When she went on a tour of her district back in the early 2000s, she came across girls and women who had been married as early as 12-years-old. She discovered that not all families were getting their daughters married at a young age out of spite, they did it because they were in dire need of money, and getting their daughters married meant that there's now a way to put food on the table.
In June 2015, paramount chief Theresa Kachindamoto of Dedza, Malawi, annulled 330 child marriages. She returned the children to school and convinced local leaders to ban child marriages. Watch her talking about it here: https://t.co/Ve5o5ZHz75 pic.twitter.com/whkNTDKeyb— On This Day She (@OnThisDayShe) June 14, 2019
“I don’t want youthful marriages, they must go to school. We have now set our own laws to govern everybody within my area when it comes to marriages and will leave no sacred cow. […] No child should be found loitering at home; gardening or doing any household chores during school time. No village head, GVH or church clergy to officiate marriage before scrutinizing the birth dates of the couple,” she explained, speaking to Nyasa Times. Even though the changes will take time, the country is already taking a step in the right direction.
We partnered with @Google for #WomensDay to spotlight 4 women’s rights defenders through VR.— UN Women (@UN_Women) March 14, 2019
One of them is Chief Theresa Kachindamoto of the Dedza District, Malawi. She's fighting to #EndChildMarriage in her country: https://t.co/gXLxXbeRTZ pic.twitter.com/Un7KRsmP6B