Being so caught up in what’s going on in the western world, it can be easy to miss stories of the heroes in developing countries.
Certain stories are important to hear because they document the positive progression of society as a whole. Despite all of the bad news, we’re inundated with on a daily basis, the world really is becoming a better place!
This particular story focuses on a hero from Malawi, Africa: Theresa Kachindamoto.
Kachindamoto is one of 12 children and descends from village chiefs in Monkey Bay. Despite her family’s importance in the local area, she led a relatively normal life for 27 years, working as a secretary at a college in the city.
But everything changed when it was time for her to take up the position of senior chief in her village.
Kachindamoto wasn’t actually in line to be the chief, as she had moved to a town and was the youngest of all her siblings. But she was elected by surprise, and, according to Kachindamoto, her people told her she would have the job “whether I liked it or not”.
From the very beginning of her new role, Kachindamoto knew she wanted to implement positive change.
Specifically, she wanted to bring attention to the issue of child marriage among the locals in her village.
Child marriage is culturally accepted in Kachindamoto’s area. However, the practice is has been illegal since 2015.
Unfortunately, this didn’t stop the practice in the village – children were still marrying, and it was considered fine as long as the parents gave consent.
But Kachindamoto felt that the tradition was outdated and that no child should have to be a parent before turning 18.
She became especially firm on this viewpoint when she toured her village and met children as young as 12 with husbands and children. Speaking to UN Women, she recalled:
“I told them: ‘Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated.’”
Kachindamoto’s village was far from small. There were some 900,000 people for her to oversee, but she didn’t see this as a setback.
During her time in her position as chief, she annulled 850 child marriages and sent all of the girls to school.
Malawi remains one of the world’s poorest countries, with one United Nations survey finding that more than 50% of its girls get married before turning 18.
Because parents are often too poor to feed their daughters, it’s common for them to agree for their child to marry because they feel they have no choice.
But child marriage often has terrible outcomes, because girls’ bodies are too small for them to safely give birth.
Kahindamoto is so adamant that the practice can’t continue that she has threatened to dismiss any chief that allows it.
She even managed to change the law, getting her 50 sub-chiefs to sign an agreement to abolish childhood marriage in her area.
And she didn’t stop there, either – she fired 4 male chiefs in areas where the practice of child marriage was still occurring and pays for the schooling of girls whose parents cannot afford the fees. She said:
“I don’t care, I don’t mind. I’ve said whatever, we can talk, but these girls will go back to school.”
To make sure her new rules are being followed, Kahindamoto has hired “secret mothers and secret fathers” in the villages to keep an eye out on parents and make sure they don’t take their children out of school.
Watch the interview below with this incredible woman who deserves to have her name heard across the world.
Please SHARE this with your friends and family.