On promises, the great women of Malawi

On Thursday 11 October 2012, a man turned up at my office and asked me to provide profiles of the great women who were going to be awarded on October 15, Mother’s Day. He said he was going to pay me for the effort. We agreed he would come back or send someone on Friday to collect the scripts, we would then go somewhere for video shots at 2 pm.

That was the last I saw and heard from him.

I thought of throwing the scripts into the waste paper basket, but I recalled the aim of providing the portraits was to inform the Malawi nation and to inspire those who are looking for a place in the sun. For this reason, I present some of the profiles here:

1. President Mrs Joyce Banda: is a versatile achiever. Even if she had not become first woman vice-president and then President of the nation, she would have paid her homage as educationalist and public benefactor. About a decade ago, she shared an international ward with a great president of a great nation for her efforts in the fight against hunger. Through the Joyce Banda Foundation, she has already contributed a lot to teaching the youth of Malawi.

Within the short time she has served as President, she has worked with heart, head and hands to try and make Malawi a better country to live in.

2. Rose Chibambo: is one of the founding parents of the Malawi nation. At the age of 24, she joined the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) whose aim was to attain independence for Nyasaland, now Malawi.

When Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda came back from Britain in 1958, he learned that Mrs Chibambo was the most active woman member of the NAC. He appointed her leader of the Women’s League.

During the 1959 State of Emergency, members of the Women’s League were very active throughout the country. The Federal and Nyasaland governments identified Chibambo as the driving force behind the women’s branch of the NAC. They put her in jail for nearly one year.

In 1963, prime minister Kamuzu Banda appointed her deputy minister.

3. Vera Chirwa: was one of the fearless freedom fighter. She was at the centre of the struggle during the 1959 State of Emergency. During the second half of the 1960s, she went to the United Kingdom and qualified as a barrister. Then she obtained a Master’s degree in Law. She was the first Malawian female lawyer. She continues to champion human rights.

4. Marie da Silva: Went to the United States and picked up an ordinary job. Out of her earnings, she saved enough to found the Jacaranda School for orphans. You have to visit the school to see how much joy she has brought to girls and boys who were facing a hopeless future. She has taught us all that you need not wait until you are a billionaire before you can act as a benefactor of your fellow citizens.

5. Mai Dinala: is one of those who joined politics not for personal gain, but for the good of the community and the nation. She was a loyal follower of Ngwazi Dr Banda and a loyal member of the Malawi Congress Party. When bad times came, she never deserted president Banda and she has remained a faithful member of MCP. Her politics have been clean, selfless and honest.

6. Mrs P.K. Dossani: The award is posthumous. After the death of her husband, she continued to manage the family businesses successfully. She made a lot of money, but spent little of it on herself. She saved most of it and put it in a trust fund from which donations have been made to social welfare programmes throughout Malawi. She was a lady with a high public spirit.

7. Mama C. Tamanda Kadzamira: For over 30 years, she served the nation as hostess of the founding father the late Ngwazi Dr H. Kamuzu Banda. It was Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, president of Kenya, who first referred to her as ‘mama’, a title more fitting and enduring since she had retained the affection of the nation even after retirement from official duties.

In all her contacts with other people, her apparent motto has been ‘Goodwill towards all, malice against none.’

8. Rosemary Mkandawire: is an achiever against the odds. Truly it was said by Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute, USA, that even in difficult environments, a person of merit will eventually be recognised, whatever his or her race or gender. She is the chief executive of Toyota Malawi because she has the competence and abilities that the Japanese recognise. Her achievement is an inspiration to many, both male and female.

9. Anastasia Msosa: was the first woman to be appointed judge of the High Court, and to be a member of the Supreme Court. She was the first chairperson of the Electoral Commission after Malawi became a multiparty democracy. All these were difficult responsibilities. She performed them with distinction all round. About seven years ago, readers of the Sunday Times voted her one of the 20 great achievers of the preceding century. Her name appears again in the list of 20 pioneer achievers at the end of History of Malawi Volume 2.

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