Theresa Kachindamoto remembers the first child marriage she ended, just days after she became the first female paramount chief of her southern Ngoni people in Malawi. In Dedza district, southeast of the capital, Lilongwe, she’d walked past a group of girls and boys playing soccer, a common sight, but then one of the girls stepped away from the game to breastfeed a baby.
“I was shocked,” Kachindamoto recalls. “It pained me.” The mother “was 12 years, but she lied to me that she was 13.”
Kachindamoto informed the elders who had appointed her chief about the young mother, a girl named Cecilia. “They said, ‘Oh yes, here it’s common everywhere, but now you are chief, you can do whatever you want to do.’ ”