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

education, child marriage laws, Malawi, Theresa Kachindamoto

Theresa Kachindamoto, the senior chief in the Dedza District of Central Malawi, wields power over close to 900,000 people… and she’s not afraid to use her authority to help the women and girls in her district. In the past three years, she has annulled more than 850 child marriages, sent hundreds of young women back to school to continue their education, and made strides to abolish cleansing rituals that require girls as young as seven to go to sexual initiation camps. With more than half of Malawi’s girls married before the age of 18, according to a 2012 United Nations survey — and a consistently low ranking on the human development index, Kachindamoto’s no-nonsense attitude and effective measures have made her a vital ally in the fight for women’s and children’s rights.

Theresa Kachindamoto, child marriage, women's rights, education

Image © UN Women

Kachindamoto, who was born in Dedza District, had been working as a secretary for twenty-seven years in another district when she was called to come home and serve as a chief. Upon her return, she was dismayed at the sight of 12 year-old girls with babies and young husbands and quickly began to take action. Last year, Malawi raised the legal age to marry to 18, yet parental consent continues to serve as a loophole to allow younger girls to marry. Kachindamoto ordered 50 of her sub-chiefs to sign an agreement ending child marriage in Dedza District. When a few male chiefs continued to approve the marriages, Kachindamoto suspended them until they annulled the unions. In addition to annulling the marriages (330 in June of 2015 alone!), this fierce chief sent the children back to school, often paying their school fees with her own money. She has also asked parliament to raise the minimum age of marriage again to 21.

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In an area where girls are often married early to ease a family’s financial burden and where one in five girls in Malawi are victims of sexual abuse, Kachindamoto is also taking a stand against the cleansing camps where girls are routinely sent before marriage. The sexual initiation rites that take place there are extremely disturbing, particularly in a country where one in ten people has HIV. Kachindamoto is threatening to dismiss any chiefs that continue to allow these controversial practices. 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.”

Via The Huffington Post and Al Jazeera

Lead image © Hannah McNeish for Al Jazeera

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48 Responses to “Female chief in Malawi breaks up 850 child marriages and sends girls back to school”

  1. shellspa64 says:

    This is the kind of woman we need on the front lines in places like Africa fighting for the rights of young women. I would be MORE than happy to see every cent of my tax dollars go to helping this woman in her struggle to free young females from the sad and precarious position many of them find themselves in, through no fault of their own. Good luck to you Chief Kachindamoto.

  2. Anda V Zevedei says:

    Great lady. The world needs much more such women, fighting for women/girls/children rights, to education and freedom of choice…

  3. Dixie McCormick says:

    This woman is amazing and strong and she has the best intentions towards the women of Malawi, God bless all her efforts to end child marriage. God bless her for “rescuing” so many young girls and giving them an education and a real future. Chief Kachindamoto you are wonderful!

  4. lesleyfree2000 says:

    I hope she’s also outlawed female cicumcision there…

  5. Margaret v T says:

    What a wonderful woman! Her courage and insight are to be unusually highly commended in a patriarchal environment like most of Africa still is. When you give people education you give them one of the most precious gifts it is possible to give. You not only give them a vastly improved future but you give them the ability to think for themselves – to make their own choices! How wonderful is that!!
    Chief Kachindamoto, thank you for what you are doing for the women and children of your country. Any woman who sees or reads about your courage and commitment cannot but feel one with you. We hold you in our thoughts and prayers. You are a true leader!

  6. sightthrougheyes says:

    This is incredible! I’m inspired by her bravery and leadership to make a change. This is why it’s so important to support groups who support leaders such as her. I pray she will go great places and many doors will open for her and she will be a force for change not only in her district but in others!

  7. sublime84 says:

    Way to go Chief! Someone to selflessly be a voice for those without.

  8. djumaana says:

    i think she is fighting for more than female and child rights, she is fighting for human rights. it cannot be easy on young males either being married young as well and being responsible for a wife and children. those rituals are wrong and so is the young age of marriage. no one does well, the people or the society as a whole when you force your children into adult behaviour when they are too young to comprehend the full gamut of being an adult.

  9. Doris says:

    Good for Chief Kachindamoto! You are doing a very special & much needed action for girls to have a better life. Keep up the good work & Thank-you. Reference was made to threats to your life…please be careful!

  10. cozynblue says:

    The tender touch of the Creator has a special place for the bruised and weary of the world.-1 Peter 2:15 Lord keep her safe.

  11. PatLynn says:

    I nobody shoots or kidnaps this fine brave woman. Tough time.

  12. Amistad3 says:


  13. Joejames says:

    Good woman x

  14. Lizilonigro says:

    What a great article about an incredible woman, bringing light to the dark continent. God bless you and may you and your work go from strength to strenght.

  15. giselegilfillan says:

    May she live long and bring education, fulfillment and prosperity to women and to her villages! Bon Courage.

  16. Julie Treadwell says:

    Chief Kachindamoto, Stay strong and Carry On! You ARE making a difference. It IS worth it!!!!

  17. Nwthings says:

    I hope she stays safe as she is truly a leader and a hero. I am praying she can continue her good work and be a beacon for the world. God bless this wonderful woman.

  18. Sidran Moon says:

    I am so moved by this woman’s courage and by the comments offered. I am moved to action to do more here, in my corner of the world, to ease the suffering of children who are being molested, sold, prostituted, abused, neglected, and mistreated.She is a gifted leader and her loving, courageous influence is far-reaching, indeed.

  19. Ajka says:

    Theresa Kachindamoto be blessed – very important is your job …thanks for every this girls 🙂

  20. altheaseepaul says:

    She is giving good advice,to both boys and girls a chance to have an education and make better live for themselves and country

  21. altheaseepaul says:

    keep up the good work to help boys and girls in the country

  22. Macool says:

    Never thought I would be saying this but for this woman, this chief, I would gladly bend a knee in thanks.

  23. redhead4u says:

    NOW there is a strong hero leadership to immulate. Thank God for the likes of the strong spirit and preseverance angainst what is wrong! continued prayers for you.

  24. nanshanror says:

    This lady is a true hero.

  25. clarito72 says:

    what a great woman !!! I am impress the way she help those young girls God bless her and give her strenght and everything she needs for continued this fight.

  26. Ellie says:

    What a wonderful, wonderful lady. I think djumaana is right, too. Let the young men be free of the burden of wife and children also. Chief Kachindamoto! Will be known by her people as the greatest of women.

  27. Justbackfrommalawi says:

    Malawi so needs such strong principled leaders ….well done Chief Kachindamoto I sincerely hope your influence spreads not only within Dedza but throughout the country to the benefit of all the people but especially the girls who are so often overworked, poorly educated and lacking in confidence.

  28. Gertrud Bern says:

    Deeply Impressed! Good luck to yu!

  29. G Johnson says:

    Someone commented that “they think she (the Chief) is fighting for more than female and child rights – and it cannot be easy on young males either being married young as well and being responsible for a wife and children.” If you read this article and subsequent articles about this Chief, it seems to me that she is fighting specifically for female child rights – it is not just the issue of marriages (young females) and difficult pregnancies because these girls are too young – it is also these so-called “sex camps” where these young girls are sent before marriage to learn how to “please men.” They are taught to do provocative dances and sex acts. They can also be expected to have sex with their male “teachers” at these camps. These young female children are seen as financial liabilities to their families—thus, they get rid of them by marrying them off – if you read this article, the Chief’s goal is: “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.” In my mind, there is no comparison between “not being easy for a male to be responsible for a wife and children” to being viewed as having no particular value as a female other than being used for sex.

  30. Hermanos Franciscanos says:

    we need more women like her….

  31. terrygachie says:

    Way to go Theresa. Women just like men should have equal opportunities in life. Early child marriages stand in the way of development and innovation. Meaningless traditions should be done away with since most add no value. This woman deserves recognition and a lot of support. I hope the government can offer her the support she needs.

  32. Anne Harper says:

    What a courageous woman! The thought of children being abused like this is heartbreaking. I hope that she is safe from opposers and that more people support her in this!!

  33. Umbrella says:

    This woman should have the full support of the international community – come one leaders use your authority and get behind her!

  34. your sister says:

    Fantastic work, chief. Much love and God bless.

  35. shumwayji says:

    Amazing strong woman ~ goddess bless her

  36. Toggy says:

    Is there any way in which we can help her in her quest? She should not have to pay to send the girls to school with her own money. Is there any organisation that works for the same goal that one can support?

  37. jamie m says:

    Thank you Theresa Kachindamoto for your work. This issue weighs heavily on my heart and I would love to know how to help as well. Words can not thank you enough for what you are doing to help young people in your community and beyond.

  38. Kabuye says:

    Great Chief, how I wish I had money to give, I shade tears as I read the story…. Thank u God bless Chief

  39. RT2016 says:

    Now this is a women I can look up to and respect her for everything she does , not feminist in first world countries screaming and been offended at anything just to have something to do . Real problems, real women powers. Massive respect from this dude.

  40. LINDA GARLICK says:

    DO NOT MESS WITH MAMA Kachindamoto!! lOVE HER!!

  41. namkiora says:

    The world needs women like her!!!

  42. Crafty55 says:

    How refreshing to read the good works this African leader is bringing to the weakest I feel of her subjects. Until a woman is allowed to have the same powers over her own body and state as a man, then surely no one is worthy of grace.

  43. blandina says:

    I applaud and congratulate Chief Kachindamoto for doing a great service to the young girls and women who are being the victim of sexual abuse. God bless you and may our Lord continue to give you the strength and courage to help these young girls and women.

  44. Chefmyoung says:

    This type of action deserves a Nobel Peace Prize recognition. …….great woman

  45. AtoZgenie says:

    This lady definitely deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. I hope other nations use her an example on bringing their countries into the 21st century. I hope she also stops the female circumscions..

  46. Cyril says:

    With this kind of woman, Africa have great hope. Let us all rise up and put an end stupid and nonsense cultures and traditions that has robbed us the strength and abilities to compete and survive in the modern world.

  47. Waliaula says:

    She should be in a higher position, even president.

  48. Geneva Neale says:

    Thank you for this magnificent accomplishment. You have taken all the necessary precautions to put this no no- nonsenses legislation in 2016. I do hope every parent appreciate what it takes to accomplish this goal. Chief, I pray for your empowerment of your entire years of being chief. Never give in to ancient rulers rulings.

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