The senior chief in the Dedza District of Central Malawi holds a lot more power than most of us realize. She uses her power for the good of the people and is currently doing all she can to protect and help the women and young girls in her district.
She is in control of about 900,000 people and in the past three years, she had annulled the child marriages of almost 900 girls, then sent them back to school so they could continue their educations. She is constantly working to do away with the sexual initiation camps many girls (some as young as seven) are required to go to.
For those who do not know, over half of the young women in Malawi end up being married before they are even 18 years old. This senior chief’s name is Theresa Kachindamoto. She was born in Dedza District and had been working outside of the district for a very long time before she came back to serve as chief. When she returned, she was shocked at the sight of all the young girls with husbands and babies. While 18 is the legal age to marry there, loopholes like parental consent continue to add to the problem.
Aljazeera reported that in the area:
Some traditions promote sexual abuse within the family. If a girl’s aunt or older sister falls sick, she can be sent to look after the household, and in some cases will be expected to have sex with her uncle or step-brother, according to one organisation working in the area, which asked to remain unnamed as Malawian authorities are not fond of such traditions being exposed.
She, when annulling a marriage actually more times than not pays the school fees for these young ladies out of her own pocket. One in five girls are victims of sexual abuse in this area and one in ten people already have HIV. These young girls are at risk of having their lives ruined before they are even old enough to think for themselves. Kachindamoto’s efforts are some that should be applauded. She is working with the resources she has to build a better life for the girls in her area and is making a difference.
She told those working with and under her “whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated,” and that is exactly where she began. Her story and her cause is one we all need to be aware of.