Theresa Kachindamoto is a hero, unlike anyone you have heard about. She is a village chiefs heir in Malawi’s Monkey Bay area. Also, she’s the youngest of 12 children. She spent 27 years working at a city college as a clerk before becoming her village’s senior chief. She established a new law to prevent child marriage and is enforcing it with serious gusto.
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 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 financial hardships, 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 canceled 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.
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.
According to Girls Not Brides, Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with one out of two girls married under the age of 18. Underage marriage has a negative impact on the development of girls, interrupting their education, and putting them at higher risk of domestic violence and early pregnancy.
According to UNICEF, in poor rural areas such as the Dedza District, child marriage rates are particularly high and it can be difficult to persuade parents not to marry their daughters in return for a dowry.
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.
“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.”