Empowerment Stories

Meet the brave woman who put an end to 850 child marriages

She is Theresa Kachindaamoto, senior Chief in the Dedza District in Central Malawi.

Child marriage is still a common problem in many parts of the world, due to poverty, lack of opportunities, education and the belief that a girl is inferior to a boy and that gives him the right to own her. 

1 in 10 girls in Malawi is married before she reaches 15 years old and 42% of all girls are married before they are 18.

Malawi is one of these countries where poverty is almost like a disease and it is common that families exchange their girls for food and money or to pay off a debt. This is such a frightening image – just the thought that your parent could do that to you or you, as a parent, can reach such a low level, that you do not see any other option…

1 in 10 girls in Malawi is married before she reaches 15 years old and 42% of all girls are married before they are 18. Do you think these girls marry out of love or do they, by any chance, fall in love with the man after the marriage is consumed? There are no reports on these girls’ feelings… numbers give only half of the problem, but you can’t put a number on feelings and probably that would make the situation much worse…

Suzana Nabanda, age 16, walks with her sister after a marriage ceremony in 2006, in a poor village in Malawi. She just got married to a farmer. 

This has to stop. Malawi set the minimum age for marriage at 18, in 2015, but there was still a law in which men could marry little girls with the consent of the parents, in the traditional way, so nothing really changed. Malawi has committed to put an end to child marriage before 2020, but Theresa Kachindamoto couldn’t wait… by then, hundreds of 12-year-old girls would have been pregnant or with little babies.

So, she gathered her sub-chiefs and urge them to sign an agreement in which all those child marriages would have been terminated. I imagine that many people wouldn’t have liked it, but she risked everything and she firmly told that all those marriages must be terminated. Still, four chiefs continued to approve child marriages. Theresa then suspended these chiefs and let everyone know that she is not joking around.

The other chiefs saw this as a warning , so they followed Theresa Kachindamoto’s order and soon no other chief approved any other underaged marriage. But she didn’t stop here, she knew she had to do more, so she sent all the girls back to school and kept an eye on all their parents to not pull any child off from school and to make sure that all of them receive the proper education. If parents can’t afford school fees, she would pay them from her own pocket.
She managed now to release 850 little girls from unwanted marriages, unwanted pregnancies and a life doomed, in a household with a man that you do not know or love.

Cheers to this incredible woman! Society is slowly changing and we need now, more than ever, empowering stories and acts like this one! We all need to learn about the power that we have and the change only 1 of us can do and influence a whole society and change generations and impact hundreds, maybe thousands of lives!

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