I present to you a person who, unintentionally, became the Head of the District where she was born and raised. Fate put her in charge of a population of more than 900,000 citizens. While in that position, she realized the girls in the region were mistreated. For economic reasons, the
parents got them married at 12 years of age, they exchanged them for money to support the rest of the family. Before the marriage, they subjected them to initiation rites where they were raped and mistreated. They were also denied education because they had to care for their children and they lived in very poor conditions.
All this was happening in Dezda central district of Malawi, Africa. Teresa Kachindamoto dedicated her career as District Chief to eradicate all the injustices that were carried out against the girls of Dezda.
Teresa was the youngest of 12 children, and from the beginning, her father saw in her the possibility of becoming something great. He concentrated on her education sending her at a very young age to study in the city, where she studied at a boarding school and later at the local university. She worked for three decades as the director’s secretary. When the father dies, she returns to Dezda to occupy the position of Chief of the District for which she was postulated. At that moment, she realized the atrocities that were committed against girls, so she decided to use her power to change customs and thus support the girls and women of the region.
Her duties as District Chief were limited to leading ceremonies, resolving disputes, maintaining traditions, and honoring local culture, but she chose to confront the tradition from which she was protected as a child. At first, the people opposed the changes and threatened to harm her. Poverty limited the opportunities for girls in Dezda. Teresa managed to dissolve
thousands of marriages, and forced the children to return to school while the grandparents took care of their grandchildren. “Let girls be girls” is one of her favorite slogans.
Teresa was able to find the funds to improve the schools, which she computerized. She fired all those who did not follow her orders. Heads from other districts came to Dezda to learn from her. She was part of the movement that established the legal age to marry at 18 years of age.
In 2017, she received the Global Leadership Award. In her speech she expressed some of her achievements like the elimination of child marriages and initiation rituals, the return of girls and boys to school, and the fact that boys were learning to respect girls. Her next goals include getting student scholarships and creating training centers to empower boys and girls. Her mission is definitely not over. There is still much to be done.
“If you educate a girl, you will educate the whole area and, in the future, they will take care of us” Teresa Kachindamoto