Today, I want to write about a remarkable, brave woman who has changed more lives than most of us will ever even touch. This is the story of Theresa Kachindamoto, the Malawi chief who set girls back on the path to self-realization. These young, liberated women who likely thought their lives were over are going to grow up to be fierce leaders and advocates and feminists.
Theresa Kachindamoto moved away from home when she was quite young. She raised a family of 5 and worked as a secretary at a city college in Zomba, Malawi. While she knew she was in a bloodline of chiefs, since she was a woman (and the youngest of 12), it never occurred to her that she would be tapped to follow in her ancestors’ footsteps. But when the call came, telling her she had been chosen to be the new senior chief whether she liked it or not, she responded to the call of duty and returned to her homeland of Monkey Bay.
While visiting with her people, Chief Kachindamoto was shocked to see how many 12-year-old girls had been married off to older men. They were producing children while still children themselves. She knew she had to stop that practice. in 2015, at the Chief’s urging, Malawi’s parliament passed a law forbidding marriage before the age of 18. Malawian children can still marry with parental consent. Unfortunately, it’s such a poor country, the practice is still fairly common in the more rural areas.
In spite of those challenges, Chief Kachindamoto has managed to break up more than a thousand child marriages, and she has prevented many more. Malawi is a very superstitious place, and girls (and boys) are also subjected to many other terrible traditions that I’m not going to chronicle here, but rest assured the Chief is working to end all of those terrible practices. Among other initiatives, she has banned the sexual initiations of young girls, started a girls’ sports league, and required that girls and boys alike go to formal school.
You can read the entire article on Chief Kachindamoto’s remarkable efforts on Aljazeera.