Theresa Kachindamoto, a newly-elected woman village chief of Monkey Bay in Malawi, Africa. She had seen the horrors of child marriage and decided to put a brave stand against it. She was the youngest of 12 kids who were descendants of village chiefs.
Kachindamoto had been working at a city college for the past 27 years. Once she came into power, she immediately set about bringing an end to the practice of child marriage within her jurisdiction. At first, Kachindamoto did not expect that she would ever have a chance to become chief. After all, she resided in a different town, had many older siblings in front of her, plus she was raising five children.
According to Al-Jazeera, Kachindamoto, the senior chief of central Malawi’s Dedza district, was tired of seeing 12-year-old girls walking around with babies on their hips. She toured Monkey Bay and met with young girls with their husbands. “Whether you like it or not,” declared Kachindamoto, “I want these marriages to be terminated.”
She decided to take a stand and gave 50 of her sub-heads in her area of authority to sign an agreement to end child marriage.
In her village, child marriage are not socially frowned upon but the practice was made illegal in 2015. Because of extreme poverty , the practice is still popular and marrying child brides is still legal with the parent’s consent.
Kachindamoto was determined to stop the tradition because of the impression that it stole the childhoods from underage girls. She said her heart was broken when she visited the area of Monkey Bay and met girls as young as 12 with husbands and children.
She annulled more than 300 child marriages in June alone. And the number has reached nearly 850 over the past three years. Furthermore, she was also able to send each of the girls she rescued from child marriages to school.
Expectedly, she received resistance from sectors who opposed her policy. Yet, Kachindamoto remained committed to her mission despite death threats.
“I don’t care, I don’t mind. I’ve said whatever, we can talk, but these girls will go back to school,” the village chief said.
Malawi has a higher rate of poverty than most communities around the world, and over half of the country’s female children were married before the age of 18.
Many of the parents opposed her actions, but Kachindamoto did not back down. She knew she could never be able to get them to change their minds but she could change the law.
The chief also hired a network of “secret mothers and secret fathers” in the villages to ensure that parents are not taking their girls out of school.
“I talk to the parents,” she said to U.N. Women last year. “I tell them: if you educate your girls you will have everything in the future.”