— Marie Claire SA (@marieclaire_sa) April 9, 2016
Theresa Kachindamoto presides as chief of her Malawian district and its 900,000 inhabitants, a rare position for a woman and a mother of five children. And in that rare position, Kachindamoto, who was called upon to become chief 13 years ago, has done something even rarer: she’s used that position to try and save the lives of young girls in her district. She has broken up more than 850 child marriages during her tenure, and gotten 50 sub-chiefs to sign an agreement banning child marriage in the district. She’s also found a way to help families financially to keep their daughters in school, rather than sending them off into early marriages, and created a network of parents to ensure that girls are going to school, not staying home to do housework.
“Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated,” Kachindamoto told her sub-chiefs, she recalled to Al Jazeera.
Almost half of Malawi’s girls are married before the age of 18. And though it is banned by the country’s parliament, customary laws and traditional authorities abide allowing parents to marry off their children early.
“I tell them: if you educate your girls you will have everything in the future,” she told the UN.