Partnering with Chief Theresa Kachindamoto: Ending child marriage and keeping girls in school
“If [girls] are educated, they can be and have whatever they want” – Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, a fearsome advocate for girls education and active terminator of child marriages in Malawi.
This past November, as a direct result of the success and outreach from Days for Girls’ 10th birthday celebration (the 2018 Global Girls Festival) Days for Girls Malawi and Eswatini Enterprises were able to partner with Chief Kachindamoto to bring DfG Kits and health education to 900 girls in Dedza District, Malawi.
Though the road to the chief’s homestead is long and winding, the journey was worthwhile to support her vision of eradicating child marriage and keeping girls in school.
To date, the chief has annulled around 2,600 child marriages, and her work has encouraged chiefs from other districts in Malawi to do the same. She is passionate about keeping girls in school, and frequently subsidizes their education costs from her own pocket.
But a lack of access to supplies for menstrual health management means that girls are still missing out on school–sometimes up to 60 days a year. Providing access to Days for Girls Kits–which include washable pads that last up to 3 years–as well as education on women’s health and safety ensures that Chief Kachindamoto’s mission to educate and empower girls in Malawi will thrive.
When we arrived in the community, we were met with a hive of activity and the sounds and sights of a women’s cultural band singing and dancing to traditional music; but a discussion with local mentors and the chief lent a somber note to our visit. As we talked, it became clear that despite the 2017 changes to the Marriage Act in Malawi (banning marriage for all those under the age of 18), there is still much work to be done to change the cultural mindsets and belief systems that contribute to the ongoing practice of child marriage.
Overall, the DfG Kit distribution went smoothly as we educated the girls, women and men on basic sexual and reproductive health concepts, including: hygiene, puberty, anatomy, menstrual cycle, self-defense, human trafficking and Days for Girls Kit use and care. The girls were thrilled to receive their DfG Kits, and enthusiastically joined in to answer questions posed about the session.
Although all of the educational sessions were well-received, the section on human trafficking had a particularly strong impact on Chief Kachindamoto, as it emphasized the need to protect girls from the trafficking that entrenches the practice of child marriage she is working so hard to end. The kit distribution was covered and promoted by local media, and volunteers left with a great sense of hope for the future.
Leaders like Chief Kachindamoto play an incredibly important role not only in their own communities, but on the world stage. The chief is a woman who leads with passion and purpose, a woman who influences others to challenge the status quo. The chief walks the talk; she has worked tirelessly with and in her community to actively build a better future for women and girls. Days for Girls is proud to partner with Chief Kachindamoto to ensure that we can achieve our vision of a world with dignity, health, and opportunity for all, and reach Every Girl. Everywhere. Period.
The Chief was similarly excited to partner with DfG, sharing “We are honoured for this support from Days for Girls and to partner in this life changing way. Thank you- Zikomo- Siyabonga!”
Lindiwe Dladla is the Country Director of DfG ESwatini, and Beria Michembo is the Country Director of DfG Malawi