Chief Theresa Kachindamoto – The Terminator of Malawi’s Child Marriages

As a small girl, I had so many dreams about my life, education, career, and future. And, I was able to achieve and fulfill so many of my dreams. However, thinking about the future, education, and career is not possible for many small girls around the world. Malawi is one such place. If you are a girl child in Malawi, you would be married off before you even reach puberty. Yet, there is one woman who is fighting this tradition giving new hope and life to so many young girls in Malawi. Read on to know about Theresa Kachindamoto who is known as the terminator of child marriages in Malawi.

Image Source- Pixabay

About Malawi 

Malawi, officially the Republic of Malawi, is a non-coastal country in south-eastern Africa. The country has a population of 15 million people. A majority of this population, 85 percent, lives in the rural areas. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. 

50.7 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Of this, 25 percent living in extreme poverty. 74 percent of people living below the income poverty line of $1.90 per day. Many factors are leading to poverty in the country. These factors include: 

- Occupation of people. 78% of the people living here are mostly farmers. 

- Weather conditions, which are not favorable for agriculture. Droughts are a common thing here. 

- Lower crop output results in food shortages pushing many towards malnourishment. 

- Diseases are a vast problem for the citizens and they don’t have enough money for proper treatment. Approximately 11.9 percent of Malawians are affected by HIV/AIDS. 

- Illiteracy is also a major problem here as people. 

Due to such poor living conditions, families are unable to care for all children and provide them with education and nourishment. As a result, the girl child is one of the most affected sections in the country. 

Child Marriages 

Child marriages are a pretty common sight in Malawi. As per statistics, 42% of girls are married before the age of 18. Unfortunately, statistics also reveal that almost one in 10 are married before their 15th birthday

As per the reports of UNICEF, Malawi has the 12th highest frequency rate of child marriage in the world. In Malawi, many girls and women face various abuses before and during the marriage. Pregnancy at a very young age is also very common among girls forced into child marriages. 

Image Source- Pixabay

Here are some reasons for child marriages in Malawi 

1) Poverty 

Poverty is one of the leading causes of child marriages. Poorer families who can’t afford to take care of their daughters, marry them off at a young age. Many times, this is to reduce the families' perceived financial burden. 

Some parents feel that marrying their daughters off at a young age will give them a chance at a better life. Worst still, in many places, daughters are forced to sleep with older men as a form of repayment of their family debts. 

2) Lack of Opportunities 

There are very few educational opportunities for girls. Poverty doesn’t allow girls to go to school and receive an education. Similarly, there is a lack of boarding facilities in schools for girls. As a result, girls have to self-board in nearby houses. 2015 report states, many girls end up marrying men in exchange for food or money. 

3) Lack of Awareness 

Lack of educational opportunities leads to illiteracy among young girls. As a result, many girls are unaware of their basic rights. These young girls are unaware of where to go or what to do when they are forced into child marriages. Many of these girls also are unaware of the harmful effects of child marriage. Girls are also unaware of protected sex and pregnancy. In a 2017 study, 87% of respondents said that child marriage happens because of pregnancy 

4) Traditions and Customs 

In many northern parts of the country, the citizens ardently follow ethnic and traditional customs. The tradition of Lobola, also known as Bride Wealth or Bride Price is quite common. Poverty pushes families to marry off their daughters in exchange for some form of wealth, usually money, land, or cattle. Girls who refuse to follow the traditions are thrown out of their houses. 

At times to protect the honor of the family and avoid girls from getting pregnant before marriages, families marry their daughters at a very young age. In rural areas, ethnic groups and leaders play a major role when it comes to taking any community decisions.

5) Inadequate Access to Legal System 

There are very few women and girls in Malawi who have access to a formal legal system. Even with access, many are unable to fight for themselves due to a lack of knowledge, high legal fees, and societal pressure. Even the location and the distance of the courthouses play a major role as courts are located in urban areas. Even the thought process that women are submissive acts as a hurdle to seek justice. 


What is Country Doing to Prevent This? 

Malawi’s Constitution recognizes women’s right to full and equal protection by the law. It also gives importance to non-discrimination based on their gender or marital status. Over the years, the country has come up with various laws, policies, and programs that promote the protection of girls and respect for women’s rights. 

Many NGOs are working towards helping young girls who are seeking justice and protection. One woman has taken it upon herself to bring justice to the doorsteps of these child brides. Through her continuous efforts, she has not only annulled many child marriages but also spread awareness about the importance of education among young girls in urban and rural areas. 

Chief Theresa Kachindamoto of Malawi 


Who is Theresa Kachindamoto? 

Theresa Kachindamoto is a senior tribal chief of Malawi. She is one of the 300 tribal leaders of the country. These tribal leaders are in charge of protecting the traditions. Along with this, the leaders also have a right to change or abolish any cultural practices. She has informal authority over more than 900,000 people. 

Chief Theresa belongs to a family of traditional rulers. Unlike others, Theresa was lucky as her father supported her education. After completing her studies, she worked for 27 years in a large college office in the southern city of Zomba. She was chosen by the chiefs of the district because of her relations and commitment towards the people of her district. 

Why is she called the Terminator of Child Marriages? 

In 16 years of her service, Chief Theresa has been fighting to annul and prevent early child marriages. Along with this, she is also working towards getting all the young girls back to school to complete their education. To date, she has invalidated thousands of child marriages. She is famously called as the terminator of child marriages. 

In June 2015, she told Maravi Post, "I have terminated 330 marriages, yes, of which 175 were girl-wives and 155 were boy-fathers. I wanted them to go back to school and that has worked."

Her persistent efforts towards the rights of these girls have shown fruit even in the constitution of the country. She made the parliament pass a bill in 2017 setting the minimum age for both sexes at 18 years. This gained her a lot of international recognition.

How does she do this? 

Fighting against customary practices alone is surely not easy. Chief Theresa received a lot of backlash from community members, parents, and some couples themselves. She even received death threats. But that won’t stop Chief Theresa. She has let go of the male sub-chiefs who refused to ban child marriage. To make her work more effective, Chief Theresa has involved the entire community in the mission. 

She has built up a large intelligence network of female informers. These women are called “the mothers” group. This mother’s group quietly monitors local activities across the district’s 545 villages. The group tries to identify the girls who fell victim to this practice. For this purpose, they even go door to door to check on the girls in their neighborhood. 

Education is the key. 

Chief Theresa believes education is the key to abolishing these traditions as well as uplifting the community. Therefore, she aims is ensuring that the girls who dropped school due to a marriage or a pregnancy resume their education. Apart from providing them education, she also focuses on other important aspects supporting the girls in their positive choices. 

She says “I often pay for, or finds other sponsors to pay for, the schooling of girls whose parents cannot afford to pay school fees.” With the help of many sponsors, she has plans to build hostels so that the girls don’t have to travel long distances to get an education. 

She is also trying to collaborate with the headmen of the villages and talk to parents to convince them to let their sons and daughters continue their education. Along with this, she is also spreading awareness among young girls about the new laws protecting their rights. She teaches girls to see their bodies as more than just objects for other people's pleasure. 

If you educate your girl, you will have everything in the future. Another important step for us is to sensitize the community, girls, and boys on this new amendment so that they know that it is now illegal to marry off children before the age of 18. – Chief Theresa Kachindamoto 

Support and Awards 

Chief Theresa’s efforts and the mission was backed up by the UN Women (the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women). She has been named the recipient of the 2016 Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award. 

In 2017, Chief Theresa Kachindamoto also received a Leadership in Public Life Award at the 16th Annual Vital Voices Global Partnership Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C., USA. 



Chief Theresa is a Queen for so many young girls. On being asked when she plans to retire, Chief Theresa says, "I'm chief until I die." 

She is an inspiration to so many of us around the world. Her bold and brave leadership and persistence to bring a change to help others is truly something we can all learn from. Share this story with others. 

What inspires you the most about Chief Theresa Kachindamoto? Share your thoughts with me in the comment section. 

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This post is a part of My Friend Alexa Season 5 with Blogchatter.

Post a Comment


  1. This is a very interesting story. Good to read about a lesser known story from Malawi. I have never heard of this place. So I am just wondering how did you end up knowing about this story.

    1. Thanks for reading. Few weeks back, I came across her picture/post on Instagram.

  2. I absolutely love the effort you've put into creating this article... Want to find more in this series. I myself have been writing about real life heroes of Kindness on my blog.

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I'll definitely check out your blog about real-life heroes of kindness.

  3. This is such an insightful post. I just said a prayer of gratitude to all that I have. We all crib about so many things in life, but this kind of life is beyond unimaginable.

    1. Thank you for your heartfelt response. Gratitude is indeed a powerful emotion that puts our challenges into perspective.

  4. Malawai sounds so similar to India, doesn't it? Glad that there are angels like Theresa Kachindamoto to bring about a change.

    1. It's incredible how stories of compassion and change resonate across different cultures and countries.

  5. Such a detailed, insightful post. Thank you for sharing about her. There are so many unsung heroes people have no idea about. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    1. Thank you for your kind words! There are indeed countless unsung heroes making a difference in the world.

  6. Thank God for such a leader. The world needs more of such people who support girls. Closer home we could do with such fearless women leaders.
    Ruchi Chopra Nasa

    1. Absolutely! We can all learn from her example and strive to create a better future for girls and women in our own communities.

  7. Education is truly the key. This is such an insightful and in depth post about their culture, truly loved it

    1. Indeed, education plays a vital role in transforming lives and understanding different cultures. Thank you for your appreciation!

  8. Wonderfully researched article. I really love these kind of informative detailed write ups. Child marriage is a issue everywhere and it is not going anywhere till the society as a collective will remain ignorant. Keep the great work going.

    #MyFriendAlexa #ContemplationOfaJoker #Jokerophilia

    1. Thank you for your kind words! It's essential to raise awareness about such issues to bring about positive change.

  9. This post feels so detailed, yet well researched. Nothing seems out of place and what's there is presented very well! It's almost like a well prepared thesis.

    1. I'm thrilled you found the post well-prepared and informative! Thank you for your encouraging feedback!

  10. It is great to hear about Chief Theresa Kachindamn. Whatever she has done for hundreds and thousands of kids, they surely will remember it. It's difficult standing up for a cause where innocence is lost at an early age.

    1. Absolutely, Chief Theresa Kachindamoto's impact on the lives of those children is truly remarkable, and her efforts will be remembered and cherished by many.

  11. Chief Theresa is a lighthouse inspiring and guiding other. Thanks for sharing such a fascinating story of this hero.

    1. Chief Theresa is indeed a beacon of inspiration, guiding others to make a positive difference in the world.

  12. Wow that's quite a title she has earned for herself. And that title requires respect. People are getting rid of their children due to poverty then why have children? I guess lack of education is the main reason.

    1. Indeed, her earned title commands respect. But the issue of children being abandoned due to poverty shows the dire need for awareness of education.


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