A Malawian Female chief has established a law to prevent child marriages in Malawi. To this effect she has terminated 850 child marriages in just three years, and banned all forms of sexual initiations of young girls.
Theresa Kachindamoto, senior chief in the Dedza District in Central Malawi, made this drastic move after she got frustrated with time of over seeing 12 year olds with babies of their own.
According to Chief Kachindamoto, she had to take a stand on the issue. She said she took action by making at least 50 of her sub-chiefs sign an agreement to end child marriage in her area of authority. She ordered them to send the girls involved back to school.
According to some reports, when four male chiefs failed to adhere to the new law to annul underage marriages, Chief Kachindamoto suspended them to set a precedent for others. She had re-hired them once they confirmed they had annulled the marriages.
The chief emphasized that she wants no under-aged marriage. According to her,
‘They must go to school. No child should be found at home or doing household chores during school time.’
Sources have also revealed that the chief operates a secret network of parents to keep an eye on families who might want to pull their girls out of school. She also gets massive assistance for parents who cannot afford the fees of the children
A 2012 United Nations survey found that more than half of Malawi’s girls were married before the age of 18. It ranked Malawi 8th out of 20 countries thought to have the highest child-marriage rates in the world. Most of the parents give their children away because they cannot afford their fees and other needs.
Although marrying under age 18 in Malawi has been illegal since 2015, children can still be married under a customary law. This means that with parental consent and approval by traditional leaders, it still takes place in some communities.
Chief Kachindamoto is keen on eradicating child marriages, sexual abuse and initiations which has engulfed some parts of the country. She believes that with gross consistency those practices which have been encouraged by her sub-chiefs will be abrogated. Though not certain, there have been reports that she is asking the Parliament to increase the minimum age for marriage from 18 to 21.