Theresa Kachindamoto: Fighting for Equality, Education, and Children in Southeastern Africa

With all of the negative headline stories in the world right now, I thought I'd diverge from the populous and take an article-moment to give praise to a certain leader. I first heard about her last year in a YouTube video posted by the BBC. She is a leader of roughly 900,000 people and the paramount chief, or Inkosi, of the Dedza District in the central region of Malawi.

Her name is Theresa Kachindamoto.

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Theresa is best known to the media as a leader who has stopped over 1,500 child marriages. This is a huge win for Malawi. Not only because forcing children to marry is wrong (obviously), but because in doing this, HIV is expected to slow.

As of 2012, Malawi was one of the poorest countries in the world and 10% of their population had HIV. 

Young girls, sometimes as young as seven, are subject to sexually abusive traditions that include sexual initiation camps for kusasa fumbi (cleansing)
— Wikipedia

In 2015, Malawi passed a law that forbade marriage before the age of 18. However, a portion of the population still sell their children for a lobola (bride price). If the thought of children being sold into marriage makes you feel sick, imagine the way these young girls feel. 

A single decision changed 16-year-old Mumderanji Loyidi’s life. Although she was a promising pupil at Lisungwi Primary School in Neno, southern Malawi, Mumderanji recalls the day that she was told that she would be marrying a man who was three times her age.

Then only aged 13, Mumderanji – who was orphaned at the age of nine – could not believe that her uncle would be sending her to get married at such tender age.

“I had just sat for my primary school leaving certificate and I was young and childish,” Mumderanji told Equal Times in an interview.

Now divorced from her 42-year-old husband and back in school, Mumderanji is one of the estimated 50 per cent of Malawian girls who ends up as a child bride.
— Equal Times

 

Even though the overall fight for child marriages continues, Theresa persistently fights for this and better education for both boys and girls. Malawi is a country where poverty is commonplace and education is scarce. As the paramount chief, she plans to overturn both of these issues.

 Photo courtesy of Yahoo

Photo courtesy of Yahoo

I'm not sure that I can point to many current U.S. leaders that are having the same impact on their country as Theresa Kachindamoto has had on hers. She will forever be added to my list of heroes and I can't wait to see what else she achieves for her country and woman's rights in general. 

I've attached a really great video below on an interview of hers back in 2016.