When she joined the Malawi Girl Guide Association (Magga) at age 10, Elizabeth Chatuwa did it just for the sake of it.
It was a school club like any other and most of her friends were in it. She knew very little about what Girl Guide was all about, but when she became a member, Elizabeth realised that girls can change the world.
Nineteen years later, she is still a girl guide as the association’s district youth commissioner, mentoring girls and assisting youth leaders in delivering programmes.
As per Magga’s vision- which is to ‘see a population of Malawian girls and young women that is empowered to realise their fullest potential as responsible citizens of the country- Elizabeth felt that empowering girls and young women would help develop the country.
“Questions have been raised in various forums whether women have what it takes to provide leadership in different sectors. My involvement with Girl Guide gave the best answer that ‘Yes, girls can’. So, I felt that I should share the same with other girls and young women though my advocacy,” she explains.
As a commissioner, she is involved in the recruitment of girls into Girl Guides, facilitating trainings for unit leaders, ensuring involvement of youth in decision making levels and representing the Malawi Girl Guides in events related to youth in the regions.
On top of the terms of reference that she has with Magga, the 29-year-old leads a programme called voices against violence- a joint collaboration between United Nations (UN) Women and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
“Voices against violence is a non-formal education curriculum for children in schools and communities. It trains youth leaders to deliver age-appropriate content to children and young people. Through activities such as role play, discussions and games, participants learn about violence against women and girls; how to challenge gender stereotypes, social norms and build respectful relationships. I am also involved in the bring girls back to school programme whereby we are reaching all the girls that dropped out from school to start again despite the situations they are in,” she says.
There are a number of challenges that she faces in her day to day job. Among others, Elizabeth feels that there are a lot of girls who need the association’s help.
As a non-profit organisation, Magga stands on a mission to enable girls and young women develop physically, socially, emotionally, mentally (intellectually), spiritually and economically so that they become responsible and useful citizens of the country.
“We do not provide monitory assistance to these girls, but we meet a lot of girls who are willing to further their studies, but lack school resources. I try my best, with the assistance from the secretariat to find individuals or organisations that are able to assist such kind of girls,” she says.
Elizabeth comes from a Christian family, with parents that were very strict about their attending Sunday School. It is from those Sunday schools where she learned about Christianity and its values.
“I have been following the values that I learnt when I was young and they have helped me to be where I am today. Also, coming from a family of girls only, my parents were very protective. They were equally strict about the friends I played with as well as hard work at school.
Just like any other young person, the determined and result oriented Elizabeth had to overcome Peer pressure.
“Being surrounded by friends from different backgrounds, I had to choose what was important and best for me to progress in life,” she explains, adding that having a positive mind helped her a lot leading to her being entrusted by Magga with the position of a youth commissioner.
Many people wonder how an Information Technology (IT) professional volunteers and advocates much on girls and women empowerment. But she notes that it does not take what one’s qualification to advocate on the rights of girls.
“It’s all about the passion one has for the betterment of our girls. The 50-50 Campaign cannot work if we don’t prepare girls to be future leaders. I feel proud to speak on behalf of girls, empower them and fight together for their rights. I want a better future for girls and for gender-based-violence (GBV) to end. I want world leaders to realise the importance of girls and young women. We are central to our families, but if we want to flourish we must be given the opportunity. After all, if you educate a girl, you educate the world,” she argues
While inviting all who would like to join girl guides to work together in moulding girls, Elizabeth advises younger girls that hard work pays.
The commissioner further advises them that whatever girls do, they should make sure that it produces fruits, highlighting the importance of putting effort in whatever they do.
She also points to the importance of girls being proactive: “For Girl Guides to in trust me, they saw my positive contributions towards girl empowerment. Girls need to have attainable goals in life. These goals will guide them to achieve and be successful in life,” she advises.
Elizabeth, the first born in the family of three girls, was born and raised in Lilongwe. She comes from Laiti VIlliage, Traditional Authority (T/A) Bvumbwe in Thyolo.
Born on April 1 1988, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Amity University. She is certified in Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL certified). She is also a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP). In addition to these, she obtained Diplomas 1 and 2 in Professional Computing and Information Technology with ABMA UK board.
Apart from her role in Magga, Elizabeth is also the IT director and a member of WeCare Youth Group – a non-profit organisation whose idea is to support orphans and vulnerable children with education.
The support includes school fees, school uniforms, school shoes, exercise books and examination fees.
“We also mentor them to be what they admire to be in future and help them to make right choices. WeCare also counsels and helps guardians and parents on how they can raise their children to become responsible citizens. The group also supports its beneficiaries with health education accompanied by malnutrition screening and support with nutritional supplements to those that are under weight.
“Apart from malnutrition, WeCare also does parental discussions on HIV testing and care for the whole family. It also works in child right promotion at community and household levels so that all community members are aware of children’s’ rights and that everyone takes a responsibility to advocate for such. The funds are sourced through the members’ monthly contributions,” she explains.