How a local chief is fighting child marriage in Malawi

World Today

Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, but one female chief is helping dismantle the practice.

CCTV’s Clementine Logan met the woman taking on tradition to protect a future generation.

Follow Clementine Logan on Twitter @ClemLogan

In Malawi, how a local chief is fighting child marriage

Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, but one female chief is helping dismantle the practice. CCTV's Clementine Logan met the woman taking on tradition to protect a future generation.

At the age of 39, Theresa Kachindamoto went from training as a secretary to becoming chief of nearly 1 million people.

When she began work, she was shocked to see girls as young as 12 with babies.

Today, she’s developed a reputation as Malawi’s top child-marriage terminator. But it’s not been easy.

“People said, ‘Who are you?’, threatened to kill me. Tried to raise school fees for some,” Kachindamoto said.

As chief she’s stopped over 800 child marriages- with the help of a by-law that makes it illegal for girls under 18.

Elena Phili was married and pregnant by 16. She moved back home after the marriage fell apart and was approached by Kachindamoto’s mothers group who encouraged her to go back to school.

“It was so painful to have a baby at the age of 16, because my body wasnt mature enough. I was always falling sick and being admitted to the hospital,” she said. “I’m very positive about my future now because after completing school I can be independent, find work and help my own children.”

For many families struggling financially, marrying off a daughter or son is one way to ease the burden.

But the chief and her network of volunteers are trying to convince families of the long term benefits of educated children.

Malawi’s government has pledged to work with the country’s chiefs to better enforce the law. Kachindamoto hopes that by allowing children to complete their education, the cycle of rural poverty can be broken.