Malawi is unfortunately the country with the highest rate of child marriages: 50% of the little girls are married before the age of 18. A number that makes you dizzy and that should make everyone angry!
And that is exactly how Theresa Kachindamoto feels about this. More than feeling revolted, she has started a fierce combat against child marriages, and advocates for women’s and children’s rights in general. After 27 years of working as a secretary in a university, she was asked to become the chief of the districht where she was born, Dedza. When she arrived, she was shocked to see 12-year-old girls carrying their own babies in their arms. Abolishing child marriages became right away her mission.
Eight years before Malawi in its whole pushed the legal age for marriage to 18, Theresa Kachindamoto took this measure for her own district. Even though this was a huge step towards abolishing child marriages, it was not enough. The tradition wanted that this law could still be avoided. Indeed, an agreement between the parents of a young girl and the village chief was enough to validate a marriage. Because in this mainly rural and extremely poor country, marrying your young daughter also means getting a dot and thus being able to repay some debts, this tradition is well anchored.
In 2015, Theresa Kachindamoto gathered 50 of her deputy chiefs and let them sign an agreement banning this tradition. She even suspended four of them who refused to abolish marriages who had already been validated, until they complied.
Thanks to her strong will and despite the multiple threats she received, 850 child marriages were canceled over the last three years.
Her fight for children’s and women’s rights and against abuse is far from over. But Theresa is an example and her voice deserves to be heard in Malawi, and in the whole world.