By Mayukh Saha
We live in dark times, in both first- and third-world countries, with violence against women at an all-time high. Thinkers like Swami Vivekananda have always opined that societies which respect women are the ones that can make progress first. Despite hundreds of such thinkers influencing people all over the world, women all around the world face issues like sexual abuse, physical abuse on the domestic front, and mental effects of the two as the aftermath. Things like child marriage and child widowhood still exist, with victims who have no economic or social support.
At this juncture, which of course needs no elaboration, a matriarch from Malawi has set an example for the West.
Theresa Kachindamoto, a senior chief from Central Malawi, is a woman who uses power to the fullest, and uses it to such a positive effect! She has authority on about 900,000 people, and she has in recent years, annulled over 850 child marriages in her district of Dezda. And on top of that, she has rehabilitated victims of such practices into the education system to continue their interrupted education uninterrupted now. She has also taken steps to abolish sexual initiation camps and ceremonies.
In 2012, a United Nations survey concluded that most of Malawi’s girls are married off before 18. In such a climate, Theresa has managed to come out as one of the staunchest companions of justice and women’s and child rights.
Despite her efforts to raise marriageable age to 18, Malawians continue to exploit a loophole on parental consent to marry off girls as young as 12.
The male chiefs who opposed her were made to resign and Theresa often paid school fees for those liberated brides from her own purse. Right now, she is trying to change the age limit to 21.
Malawi is quite poor as a country and lies on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to human development too. One in five girls here is a victim of sexual abuse while 10% of the population has HIV or AIDS.
In such circumstances, Theresa is attempting to abolish the so-called sexual initiation camps where extremely young girls are sent before marriage. The practices here, claimed to be cleansing rituals, are quite disturbing and perverted.
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Although the facts have been open to the public for years, many parents and chiefs are still supporting such inhumane practices. Chiefly because girls are seen as economic burdens and also because of their conservative politics.
Theresa has threatened to dismiss all chiefs who encourage such practices, even after receiving several death threats from their likes for years now.
She is truly a hero and a visionary, someone to look up to!
IMAGES CREDIT: UNWOMEN.ORG