Africa’s south-eastern country Malawi ranks 8th out of the 20 countries having highest rate child marriages. On average, one out of two girls in Malawi is married by their eighteenth birthday according to the United Nations. Poverty, teenage pregnancy, traditions and cultures that tolerate violence against girls and women and their subordination, and lack of adequate education and employment opportunities are the reasons for such high rates of child marriages. However, the ray of hope still shines in the form of Theresa Kachindamoto, Malawi’s child marriage terminator. Kachindamoto works to terminate this gruesome yet highly prevalent practice in Malawi, where girls as young as twelve years of age get married and also become mothers. If it is not enough, girls are sent to sexual initiation camps where they have to go through certain “cleansing rituals” and are taught how to please their husbands. In a place as where people are financially unstable, the intervention of the chiefs (traditional authority figures) in matters of socio-economic importance is not met well with the community. But being fully aware and deeply troubled by the fate of the girls of her native land, Theresa chose to be the chief of Dedza district and was determined to make amends. She began spreading awareness about education and the need to make girls well educated. She pleaded with the parents to discontinue the practice of sending their daughters to the initiation camps, and pleaded them to send the girls to schools instead. The hurdles faced by her in the due process came in the form of the parents. They consider their girls to be a burden and do all it takes to marry off the girls as soon as possible, to alleviate their financial crisis. They failed to comprehend what Kachindamoto wished to preach them. How could investing huge sums of money in their daughter’s education uplift their financial conditions? And could they even manage to pay for their education with their meagre salaries? These were the questions in the parent’s minds. When Kachindamoto realised that revolutionising the mentality was not achievable, she decided to revolutionise the law instead. She has not only banned the cleansing rituals but has also passed a law forbidding marriage before the age of 18. She is now striving to amend the age to that of 21. She has assigned 50 sub-chiefs who serve the purpose of annulling the existing marriages and abolishing child marriage entirely. Theresa is firm and resolute in her actions and vows to be chief till she dies. In her noble stance, she has drawn together the entire community along with the sub-chiefs and the charities to bring about a change in the land they call home.
The Logical Indian
supports the initiative taken by Theresa Kachindamoto and we wish her all the success in alleviating the gruesome practice of child marriages in Malawi. Child marriage can not be a solution to problems, it destroys the lives of children taking away their access to education, freedom and childhood.