A brave woman stands up to traditional child abuse

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Woman chief stops child marriages
By María V. R.
Theresa Kachindamoto, senior chief in the Dedza District in Central Malawi (Africa), was tired of seeing 12 year-old girls walking around with babies on their hips. She decided to take action on the matter by enforcing new procedures to prevent child marriage… and she is doing it with serious gusto. The first part of her plan was to make 50 of her sub-chiefs sign an agreement to end child weddings in their areas of authority. Despite initial resistance this was accomplished, and then she went even further by forcing the local leaders to annul many existing underage unions, and to send all of the children involved back to school.

Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 50% of the girls getting married before the age of 18. Marrying so young negatively affects the girls’ development by interrupting their education and putting them at higher risk of domestic violence and early pregnancy. Marriage under the age of 18 has been technically illegal in the country since 2015, but people get around that by using “customary law”. This means that underage girls can be married if there is parental consent and the ceremony is overseen by traditional leaders.

Chief Kachindamoto does all that she can to close this loophole, and she has cancelled or annulled over 1,000 child marriages. To ensure that children are not being pulled out of school she operates a network of parents to keep an eye on these things. Also, when parents can’t afford to pay school fees she pays them herself or finds someone who can. Through her efforts the population is gradually becoming more aware of the problems caused by child marriage, and they are cooperating to improve the situation.


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