Recite the last bylaw: Chiefs and child marriage reform in Malawi
In the study of modern chieftaincy in Africa, scholars have identified chiefs as important intermediaries for promoting increased voter turnout, new health policies and development initiatives. I add to this literature the importance of chiefs as cultural intermediaries. Using recent child marriage reform efforts in Malawi as a case study, I find that chiefs are key actors needed to implement culturally embedded policy changes. Drawing on descriptive evidence from 12 months of fieldwork across all three regions of Malawi, I find that chiefs are responsible for shifting cultural practices related to child marriage. Using a unique blend of democratic and non-democratic powers, chiefs in Malawi are defying expectations and using their position to promote girls' rights. These findings contribute to our broader understanding of the political and cultural power of modern chiefs.
Journal of Modern African Studies
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Maiden, E. (2021). Recite the last bylaw: Chiefs and child marriage reform in Malawi. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 59(1), 81-102. doi:10.1017/S0022278X20000713