Theresa Kachindamoto, a village chief in Malawi, has earned herself a reputation for being the top marriage terminator in the country for her firm stance against child marriage and sexual initiations that are common in Malawi.
As an offspring of one of Malawi’s traditional chiefs, Kachindamoto says she was compulsorily installed as the next senior chief by her village elders in Monkey Bay 13 years ago due to her good rapport with the people, prompting her to ultimately abandon her lucrative job as a secretary at a city college in Zomba, Southern Malawi.
Malawi’s Top Marriage Terminator
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Kachindamoto reveals that when she took over as the senior chief, she was stunned by the large number of underage girls, some as young as 12 years old, with babies and teenage husbands.
She immediately made an unequivocal decision to end the archaic cultural practice, albeit at the risk of being attacked by villagers.
“I told them, Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated,” she said.
Kachindamoto also made it her mission to end the infamous sexual cleansing of young girls and new widows, known as “Kusasa Fumbi,” where young girls are required to have sex with a hired male sex worker, locally referred to as “hyena,” after their first period as a rite of passage.
Some girls have ended up getting infected with HIV and other STDs while others become pregnant after this ritual since it rarely involves the use of condoms.
“I said to the chiefs that this must stop or I will dismiss them,” Kachindamoto says.
Last year, a middle-aged man was jailed by a Malawian court, after he confessed to having sex with underaged girls as part of the sexual cleansing ritual even though he knew he was HIV positive.
Kachindamoto reveals that her efforts to end the long-held cultural practices didn’t go down well with many villagers, some of whom even threatened to kill her.
Many condemned her, saying she had no right to overturn tradition — or as a Mother of five boys — lecture parents on how to raise their girls.
To ensure that her efforts were sustainable, Kachindamoto decided to change the law by ordering her 50 sub-chiefs to sign an agreement to abolish early marriages under customary law and dissolve any existing marriages within her jurisdiction.
With the new law, Kachindamoto has managed to terminate more than 850 child marriages and send all involved children back to school.
She says she normally relies on well-wishers to pay school fees for girls whose parents cannot afford to keep their children in school.