Theresa Kachindamoto was a secretary 13 years ago, with no desire to come back home and become one of the Chiefs of over 900,000 people.
When the chiefs called, it was to tell her to go back home and be the Senior Chief of Monkey Bay. She quickly assumed her role, and the first shock she got changed the course of her struggles forever —there was an alarming rate of teenage husbands and wives.
Even more alarming is that a 2012 UN survey says over half of Malawian girls marry before the age of 18. Even though it was declared illegal by the country’s parliament last year, customary law still endorses it as long as there’s parental consent.
And the major reason parents give off their daughters? Poverty.
Its even worse outside Theresa’s jurisdiction. There’s a thing called Kusasa Fumbi, where girls are taken to camps and taught how to please men by doing seductive dancing and other sex-related acts. Some of them only graduate after they’ve slept with the teacher.
Now, Theresa has banned it, and even threatened to fire any chief in her jurisdiction who endorses it in any form. In one of the poorest countries in the world, where one in 10 people has HIV, imagine the catastrophe for the girls, who are sometimes as young as 7.
After terminating over 850 child marriages, she is now taking it a notch higher. She is asking parliament to increase the marriage age from 18 to 21 to help break the vicious cycle of poverty.
She knows the only direction in this journey is forward.
“I’m Chief till I die,” she said.
We salute her.