Chalendo MacDonald is one of the female chiefs who continue to promote girls’ education and eliminate harmful cultural practices, including child marriages in Malawi.
Her struggle is out of her own experience. Born in 1952, Chalendo would have completed her education had her grandmother, the breadwinner of the family not passed away.
Following her grandmother's passing, she got married to Matthias William, a Group Village Headman at the tender age of 14.
When her sister, who was the local headwoman, died, she inherited her position. Based on that, she now drives her campaign to protect girls’ futures and create better lives for them.
Promoting gender equality
According to AllAffrica.com, Chalendo has the authority to promote matters of common interest in her community of 760 villages and 170 group village headmen.
Among those supporting her campaign against early marriages is Senior Chief Kachindamoto, chief of Dedza District in the central region of Malawi.
According to Chalendo, Kachindamoto has eliminated some cultural practices which were deemed harmful to women and girls and banned masked men who perform ritual dances at traditional ceremonies and those who counselled the young girls during initiation.
From 2013 to date, they have resolved 507 cases have been brought to them by women and 37 by men, due to infractions, including for men failing to support their families, or for not paying the school fees for their children.
44 cases were referred to police and nine people are serving time in prison because of rape. Their success in resolving them has meant that the community now has fewer cases of gender-based violence.
Queen Best Kemigisa, Queen Mother of Uganda’s Toro Kingdom, visited her community in 2016 and was interested in learning about her activities and to share ideas on how to encourage cultural practices that promote the rights of women and girls.
Earlier this year, she met Graça Machel, former Mozambican and South African First Lady, together with some of the girls who were rescued from child marriages. She looks forward to welcoming more visitors.
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