Sadly, not every child around the world gets to enjoy the freedom of choosing who they will marry when the time comes. In Malawi, there is a shocking custom where small girls are separated from their families and forced to marry someone they have never met before.
Can you imagine the child’s shock when they’re arranged to marry someone lot older than them and force the do housework on such a young age?
This small African country is also one of the poorest in the region and they have had cases where parents arrange a marriage for their child before they even turned 18.
Even after the introduction of a law in 2015, which made illegal for parents to marry their children before they become adults, parents continued to disobey the law in order to help them survive financial hardships.
What’s even more disgusting, these girls were sent to specialised camps as soon as they get their first period, so that they can learn their ‘duties and behaviour’. At the camps, they are encouraged to engage in vile acts that led to pregnancies and HIV infections.
According to Al Jazeera, Theresa Kachindamoto, a senior chief in the Dedza district of Malawi decided to change that:
“Thirteen years ago, Theresa Kachindamoto could not have conceived of ever leaving her job of 27 years as a secretary at a city college in Zomba, another district in Southern Malawi.
She had no desire to return home to Monkey Bay, a stunning cluster of mountains in Dedza District around Lake Malawi. Although she had the blood of chiefs — Malawi’s traditional authority figures — running through her veins, as the youngest of 12 siblings, a woman, and a mother of five, Kachindamoto never expected to become a senior chief to the more than 900,000 people.
But when the chiefs called, she says, they told her to pack her bags and go home to Dedza district, as she had been chosen as the next senior chief. She was told that she had been chosen because she was “good with people”, and that she was now the chief, “whether I liked it or not”, she recalls.
Kachindamoto duly donned the traditional beads, red robes, and a leopardskin headband, and started touring the rows of mud-walled, grass-thatched homes to meet her people.”
From the very first day, Theresa Kachindamoto was stunned by this tradition and decided to do something about it.
“Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated.”
She joined a meeting with 50 of the local leaders and made them sign an agreement that put an end to this vile practice.
The areas under her jurisdiction had to stop this disgusting tradition, and she even fired a few people that did not follow the agreement. She closed down and banned the initiations camps and also managed to save 850 such arranged marriages, and send those girls back to school.
Many welcomed the change; however, few argued that she did not have the right to mess with tradition.
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.”
She continued by emphasizing the importance of education:
“First of all it was difficult, but now people are understanding. If they are educated, they can be and have whatever they want.”
Her determination and hard work inspired many, even though the fight between tradition and ‘the right thing’ was not an easy one at first.
“I want these girls to be educated because in the future they will take care of us.”– she replied. all all
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