'Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated’, Theresa Kachindamoto, the appointed Chief of Malawi since 2003, told the 900,000 population of the Dedza District, Central Malawi. She commits to annul 850 marriages and send the girls back to school during her time in office. Kachindamoto told UN Women, “They must go to school. No child should be found at home or doing household chores during school time.” Not only have Malawi appointed a female chief, but also have elected their first female president, Joyce Banda, in May 2014.
In a recent UN report, Malawi was ranked 8th out of 20 countries with high rates of child marriages. Kachindamoto aims to overturn laws surrounding child marriages, arguing that an educated girl brings greater fortune to households.
There has been a notable change of attitude towards the role of women in Malawian society. Greater awareness of HIV is helping to erode the practice of childhood marriage as well as pressure from local campaign groups, such as The Girls Empowerment Network. This has resulted in the Malawi Government legally setting the age of marriage to 18 years old, formally known as The Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act of 2015. This constitutional change has opened up the possibility of women’s empowerment and equality across other areas of society. As a woman, the Malawi Chief also provides an empowering example to girls.