Malawian chief, Theresa Kachindamoto, bagged home the New African Woman in Civil Society Award at a gala held at the Terrou-Bi Hotel in the Senegalese capital Dakar on Wednesday.
She was nominated in the category alongside Francine Furaha Muyumba from DR Congo, Nigeria’s Hadiza Bala Usman, Salimata Lam from Mauritania, Theo Sowa from Ghana and Zainab Hawa Bangura who is from Sierra Leone.
Kachindamoto had annulled 330 customary marriages – of which 175 involved child brides and 155 involved boy fathers in Dedza district.
She had worked to encourage these youth to return to school and continue a healthy childhood.
Her decision however faced resistance from other community and opinion leaders, young couples and their parents—especially in marriages where a dowry had been involved—but she continued door-to-door campaigning in the community with mothers’ groups, members of the Village Development Committee, faith-based leaders and NGOs– lobbying, sensitizing and even annulling marriages.
Chief Kachindamoto also suspended village heads that had consented to child marriages, as the community’s bylaws forbade it, even before the new Marriage Act.
Now that Chiefs have been recognized for their role in the new Act, it makes it easier for the suspensions to be regulated under this law.
At the gala Gambia’s Fatoumatta Jallow-Tambajan, Minister of Women Affairs and Overseer – Vice President’s Office was named New African Woman of the Year.
Senegal’s Fatma Samoura was named New African Woman in Sport while Nigeria’s Joan Okorodudu was named New African Woman in the Arts & Culture with Mali’s Binta Touré Ndoye getting the New African Woman – in Finance accolade.
Tunisian Amira Yahyaoui was named New African Woman in Media while former African Union Commissioner Agriculture and Rural Development Tumusiime Rhoda Peace from Uganda, is the New African Woman in Agriculture.
Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch, was named New African Woman Award in Business while Zimbabwean philanthropist and educationist Tsitsi Masiyiwa, received the New African Woman Award in Education.
Nigeria’s Amina J. Mohammed was named New African Woman in Politics and Public Office while the award for New African Woman on the Rise (The Next Generation) went to Kenyan Vivian Onano.
The Award for Women in Health, Science and Technology went to Namibia’s Dr Helena Ndume.
The Awards ‘celebrate and honour exceptional African women who have made a positive impact and contributions in their communities, and the continent at large, in the past 12 months.