For Deliwe Makata, a final year Chancellor College student, empowering young women and girls does not imply that one is making the woman fight to be equal to the man.
“In my understanding of the nature of the woman, I do not see the need to fight to be just like the man. We are different, in our own ways. I believe we are strong, yet, vulnerable. We can dominate, be influential and still show the beauty in submission,” she explains.
To her, a woman who tries to be like a man spells someone who does not really know who she is.
The 23-year-old is the founder and executive director of Women Inspire, an empowerment and capacity building network for girls and young women in the country.
“We work in areas of human rights, civic leadership, education and character development. We are dedicated to ensuring that girls and young women have their voice in society and in the country at large; and that they are involved in a continual process of self development so that they become active citizens and participants of the development of the nation,” she says.
Makata says they have a curriculum-based education adopted under the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) dreams toolkit called My Choices, My Future.
“It contains education that enhances identity and builds character in our girls. Through this education training, we foster a sense of self development, educate them on their rights, how to be productive and active participants to the country’s development,” she says.
Born on February 2 1994 in Blantyre, Makata says Women Inspire is a product of passion; adding that she grew up aspiring to be more than what living conditions dictated to her at that time.
“I had a passion to become a woman of influence and as I grew older, it became clearer in my heart that I had to become a voice on my own. I, however, realised that in order to become the person I envisioned, I had to help other girls and women realise their own voices too. I wanted to portray the concept of making the room brighter by helping other people shine, too,” she says.
With branches in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Zomba, Women Inspire has over 350 girls under its two projects, Msungwana Wa Lero and Tsogolo Lathu.
The organisation is specifically working with girls from Ndirande and Mbayani in Blantyre, Chinsapo in Lilongwe, and Thom Allan in Zomba.
Women Inspire has so far trained a total of 155 volunteers and their ultimate goal is to exist in all 28 districts of the country.
“We want to be the name that is not far from the mind of every girl and we want to be the voice that is only a walk away. Before they go to work in the communities, we train all volunteers because we want to ensure that they are part of a bigger goal. We also want to challenge them to take up this leadership role as community developers,” she says.
However, as an organisation that is relatively new, Makata says issues of resistance come into play in some of the areas they work.
“People have the tendency of seeing everything as ordinary or something that has been done before- giving it little or no faith at all. This has at times affected our perception to the changes we look forward to. We appreciate that this organisation is not the first of its kind, but there is a way we can all get to the same goal differently,” she says.
Financing is another problem which Makata says is seen when planning different interventions.
“All our activities are done with money from our own pockets, with little assistance from well-wishers. We are sponsored by Grace,” she says.
Challenges aside, the Women Inspire founder and executive director envisions a great future.
“We plan to make our organisation an international name. We want to exist in households, communities, schools and work places,” she says.
Currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, she recalls growing up in Lilongwe always wanting to stand out, be heard and actively participate.
“I never liked being in the background or walking through life on the side walk. As I grew older, I realised that life cannot be about finishing school and getting a job. I wanted to be more.
“I took the journey of discovering how this voice and influence can be best brought out and realised I had a natural passion to work for and with girls and women,” she points out.
The young woman is from Mphedzu Village, Traditonal Authority (T/A) Bvumbwe, in Thyolo.
She notes that many times women spend their days focused on what they become, who they should please, how people look at them, neglecting to just being who they are.
“Take time to just be a great mother, aunt, friend, girlfriend and other things. We are phenomenal in our nature. Take time to just nurse that and just be phenomenal,” she concludes. n