Malawi Chief Annuls 850 Child Marriages, Sends Kids To School

In three years, Chief Kachindamoto has broken up 850 marriages and banned the sexual initiations of young girls.

Credit: Hannah McNeish/Al Jazeera

Credit: Hannah McNeish/Al Jazeera

Chief Theresa Kachindamoto has done in three years what most people could not accomplish in a lifetime. The renowned leader of the Dedza District of Central Malawi has not only abolished hundreds of child marriages, she has used her authority to direct better lives for the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on her leadership.

According to a 2012 United Nations survey, more than half of Malawi’s girls are married before the age of 18. In addition, the country is ranked 8th out of 20 countries believed to have the highest child marriage rates in the world. Chief Kachindamoto is changing this one step at a time and has begun by annulling more than 850 child marriages, sending hundreds of young women back to school to continue their education, and by making astonishing strides to abolish cleansing rituals that require young girls to go to sexual initiation camps.

Kachindamoto recognizes that with an education, women may live better lives, therefore, has devoted herself to improving conditions for girls and women worldwide. Her no-nonsense attitude and effective measures have contributed to positive change in her region, and she’s just getting started.

In Kachindamoto’s own words, “If they are educated, they can be and have anything they want.”

Reportedly, the former secretary never wanted to become chief of hundreds of thousands. But, according to Huff Post, she was granted the honor because she was “good with people,” and that the job was hers “whether I liked it or not.”

Today, she is every bit a compassionate caretaker as she is a fearsome chief, and her people know it. She has used her authority to make the lives of women and girls in her community better and is influencing other Africans – especially women – to stand up for themselves in this rapidly changing world.

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