Ndifanji Namacha, 24, is among six youths attending the Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) at the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London from April 16 to 20.
The Forum agenda will be about Malaria, Universal Health Coverage and Non-Communicable diseases- topics she has taken an interest in and is involved with.
“When the National Youth Council of Malawi made a call for nominations, I decided to submit an application as an opportunity to influence decision makers and represent my country. I was happy to learn that I made it as one of the six representative countries out of all the Commonwealth applications,” she says.
Being a girl and having overcome cultural and societal barriers to higher education for women, the youthful doctor believes that her presence and her story will help contribute to the various discussions that the youth from different countries will share.
Born at St Joseph Mission Hospital (Nguludi Mission Hospital) on June 19 1993 to Stephen and Emily Namacha, Ndifanji is the first born in a family of five girls.
She was raised in Blantyre where her parents still run a number of businesses. She went for kindergarten and primary school at Ladybird International Private School before moving on to Elma High School for lower secondary education.
Ndifanji later went to Kalibu Academy from where she wrote her International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) in November 2009 and emerged the best student in sciences, mathematics, accounting and was overall the best IGCSE (‘O’ Level) scholar for that year.
While in high school, Ndifanji says she was always caught-up between studying medicine and accounting for her tertiary studies.
She explains: “I enjoyed both the sciences and the finance subjects. I actually scored really well in accounting and business studies. After my ‘O’ levels, I applied to the College of Medicine for a Bachelor in Medicine and Bachelor in Surgery (MBBS) from which I was awarded the government sponsorship. I was at College of Medicine December 2010 to May 2016.”
During her time at the college, she served as a class representative, Medical Rights Watch President and Students Union Representative.
Ndifanji confesses that medical school covers some of the best years of her life.
Among other highlights, she got born-again and received Jesus Christ as her Lord and personal saviour on May 20 2011.
Apart from that, she says her research group was awarded the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust Undergraduate Research Grant for their fourth year research; and to crown it all, she attended summer school in Global Health at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
Between her third and fourth year, she went through what she calls the Damascus moment.
“This is when I was seriously contemplating my career in clinical practice versus going to full time public health as a research scientist and academician. By the time I was in my final year, God was very clear on which path I was going to take and I was in agreement with my destiny. So, following the completion of my degree, it was all very clear for me,” says Ndifanji.
She is now an assistant lecturer in public health in the school of public health and family medicine at the College of Medicine and one of the youngest faculty members in that department.
The doctor is also a research intern with the malaria epidemiology group at the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust and secretary for the Women in Infectious Diseases/Health Research Network in Malawi (Widrem).
“I plan to grow to the senior ranks in the field of public health/epidemiology. I wish to contribute to research by publications and also policy making not only in Malawi, but the Sub-Saharan region, especially in the area of adolescent health and sexual reproductive health.
“I am currently involved in various technical working groups (TWGs) in the Ministry of Health and I intend to continue in these platforms as we advance the health of Malawians,” says Ndifanji.
Growing up in an all girls’ home within a culture which upholds the boy than the girl was enough motivation to shape her into the woman she has become.
Nicknamed Margaret Thatcher by her father, Ndifanji feels indebted to her parents for allowing her the freedom to make her own career choices and make mistakes as it helped her mature.
“I learnt to be responsible at a young age, always wanting to be an example to my younger sisters. I grew up in a Christian home and that instilled in me Godly values from a young age. Growing up with a business woman and business man/ politician developed in me a risk taking character,” she says.
Ndifanji adds: “I am usually not afraid to take well calculated risks after I have counted the cost. My father was always very encouraging, exposing us to women who have made it big at national and international levels- telling us we could become those women people read about and see on television someday,” she says.
Outside of all the hassles of life, Ndifanji enjoys cooking, travelling, reading books, photography and modeling.
“Nobody loves a good camera as I do. Being in front of the camera or in the kitchen helps me to distress,” she says.
She advises younger girls to go for their dreams.
“With God, there is nothing you cannot do. Write down your vision on paper, make it a daily reminder and seek to become that woman. There is a tendency to compete and compare among women, but I want to encourage all the women to run their own race at their own pace and in their own lane.
“Don’t let anyone tell them less because just as it is written in Jeremiah 29; verse 11, God has a very beautiful plan for each and every one of us and no matter where you are right now. The end is beautiful,” she advises. n