Malawi chief Theresa Kachindamoto has her priorities straight. In the past 13 years, she’s used her position of authority over 900,000 people to fight for women and girls’ rights.
One of her most kickass accomplishments was annulling more than 850 child marriages over the past three years in the Dedza District. After seeing girls as young as 12 walking around with babies, Kachindamoto decided to put an end to these unions.
“I told them: ‘Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated,’” the Chief explained to news outlet Al Jazeera.Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriages in the world, ranking at number eight out of 20 on a 2012 United Nations survey.
Last year, Malawi banned children from marrying before the age of 18. However, according to Al Jazeera, children could still be married with their parents’ consent under certain customary laws.
In order to make change in her district, Kachindamoto got 50 sub-chiefs to sign an agreement to annul any existing child marriages and ban future ones. When four chiefs refused to honour the agreement, she suspended them until they annulled all the marriages in the Dedza District.
Following this, Kachindamoto used her own money to send the children back to school.
“I don’t want youthful marriages,” she told UN Women. “They must go to school… no child should be found loitering at home or doing household chores during school time.”
Kachindamoto stressed that Malawian children today have more opportunity than they had in the past, which is why education is so important.