This Female Chief In Malawi Annulled 850 Child Marriages
A female chief in Malawi is breaking up child marriages and seding girls back to school. She's the definition of woman power.Read More...
A woman has established a law to abolish child marriages in Malawi. And she’s enforcing it vehemently. In Malawi, this female chief is daily changing lives of young girls as she fights to end the traditional oppressive practices done against them.
Thirteen years ago, Theresa Kachindamoto had a 27 year old career as a secretary. She worked at a city College in Zomba. Even though she was born into the bloodline of chiefs, she loved her job. So leaving her job to return to her Monkey Bay hometown was the last thing on her mind.
Until one day when the chiefs summoned her to return to Dedza district. In Malawi,chiefs are authority figures and they have jurisdiction over their districts. Theresa was given a district of 900, 000 to govern.
Since then, the mother of five has led more than 900,000 people as their senior chief.
The chiefs told Theresa that they chose her because she was “good with people.” She was appointed and she would do her duty to her people whether she liked it or not.
Upon her return, Theresa was shocked by the strange happenings in her district. Girls as young as 12 already had babies with teenage husbands. Theresa got tired of seeing 12-year-old girls walking around with babies on their hips.
She decided to take a stand and made 50 of her sub-chiefs sign an agreement to end child marriage in her area of authority
“I told them: ‘Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated.’”
Since she came to power, Theresa was able to annul 850 marriages, sending all of the girls back to school. Theresa encouraged parents to keep their daughters in school. She assured them that an educated girl would bring their family greater fortune. But her pleas fell on deaf ears.
Instead, she received a lot of backlash. The people said that she had no right to overturn tradition and lecture parents on their upbringing. Aware that these long-held mentalities of parents are difficult to sway, Theresa decided to change the law.
She got her 50 sub-chiefs to sign an agreement to end the practice of early marriage under customary law and revoke any existing unions in her area of jurisdiction.
But the people stubbornly went ahead anyway
When she learned that child marriages were still taking place in some areas, she fired the four male chiefs who oversaw them. The chiefs returned four months later to tell Theresa that all the unions had been undone, and the senior chief took them back after it was verified.
Theresa then gathered community members, the clergy, local committees, and charities together to establish a bylaw that prohibited early marriage under the civil law.
“First of all it was difficult, but now people are understanding”, she said.
By going against the grain, Theresa faced a lot of difficulties including death threats. But the strong-woman just shrugged them off and reiterated the law.
“I don’t care, I don’t mind. I’ve said whatever, we can talk, but these girls will go back to school,” she said.
With a lot more to accomplish, Theresa said that there is no turning back for her. She said:
“I’m chief until I die.”
We can only celebrate Theresa Kachindamoto, and hope and pray that more Theresas show up all over Africa.