Female chief in Malawi breaks up 850 child marriages, sends girls to school

The senior chief of the Dedza District of Central Malawi governs almost one million people, and she has risked her authority to break up more than 850 child marriages and send hundreds of girls to school. Her name is Theresa Kachindamoto.

According to the United Nations, more than half of Malawi girls are married before their 18th birthday and one in five Malawian girls are victims of sexual abuse. Kachindamoto has made it her mission to fight for a better bargain for women and girls in her district.

After working as a secretary for 27 years, Kachindamoto returned to Dedza after being called upon to serve as chief and was “dismayed” at witnessing 12-year-old girls with babies and husbands. She immediately decided to use her authority to better the lives of Dedza girls and women, suspending all sub-chiefs who approve child marriages until they annull the unions. Kachindamoto is also using her personal money to send former child brides to school.

“Kachindamoto has faced plenty of opposition to her efforts from parents and community members, even receiving death threats, yet she remains determined to continue changing minds and laws for the benefits of Malawi’s females and their futures. In Kachindamoto’s own words, “If they are educated, they can be and have anything they want.”

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