With over 850 child marriages broken up in Malawi, Theresa, The Terminator, Kachindamoto has a battle plan to stop early age marriage in her region. As the Head Chief of over 900,000 people, her number one goal is to protect and provide for the young children of Malawi. Kachindamoto spent 27 years working in the same company as a secretary for a city college in the Zomba District, so she knows how to plan for the future. However, Kachindamoto was so passionate about the protection of young girls and children in her area, that when she was approached to be the newest Chief, she happily gave up her career of over a quarter of a century to make a difference in the world.
Malawi is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, and with over 50% of the young women being married before the age of 18, Malawi ranks as one of the highest countries with child marriages on the globe.
Most child marriages are arranged between the families to ensure the procurement of land, selling of stock, dowries, and other financial gains exchanged during the agreement. Due to the financial gain, many people believe the prearranged child marriages go against ethical values by considering the child as a commodity instead of a human being.
Kachindamoto clearly makes her stance clear that. “I told them: ‘Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated.’” And since her induction as chief, she has not shown any signs of backing down when it comes to this issue. After working with 50 of her sub-chief counterparts, she was able to get a signed agreement granting her the authority to terminate child marriages in her extended region, making her one of the first leaders in Malawi to take a hard stand against the practice.
Youth and School Programs
Theresa Kachindamoto hasn’t stopped with just child marriages, as she is passionate about all youth in her authoritative region, working to reintroduce the children back to school. To make sure that her youth program is successful and that the children are attending school as planned, she has an enlisted a private sector of parents to keep an eye on the children and report back any news regarding the absence of students enrolled.
With the fear of poverty, it is common practice to marry off a young girl to ensure the financial safety and proper support they will need for the future of their lives. But Kachindamoto has a different view telling the families of Malawi, “I talk to the parents,” she says, “I tell them: if you educate your girls you will have everything in the future.”
HIV and Tradition
In a country riddled with HIV, one out of ten people are reported to have this disease, making child marriages even more deadly for young girls. Without the proper use of condoms in the country, many children find themselves exposed to HIV without consent causing them to become infected and suffer a life of pain and agony, including early death.
Traditionally, it is believed that the men of Malawi who are infected with HIV can be cured by having sex with a “cleansed” partner, contributing to the on-going support of child marriages.
In summary, child marriages are still occurring across the globe, but Theresa Kachindamoto has taken a major step to reverse this tradition and often deadly arrangement. With the recent news, exposure to the media and on-going support to terminate youth marriages, the world has been exposed to the underbelly of this practice.