Tendai Banda is the outgoing national co-ordinator of Youth to Youth Empowerment Network, a grouping of young people mentoring other young people to work hard in their secondary school education and maximise their opportunities for a bright future. Although she is no longer coordinating the youth network, she always takes time off her work schedule, providing her energy and sometimes resources for mentorship sessions in community secondary schools, apart from volunteering for other organisations such as Advancing Girls Education in Africa (AGE Africa) to encourage young girls.
“Basically, we give young people evidence of opportunities that can present themselves through one’s completion of a decent education. So, we bring in successful young people who have also gone through the same problems that the youth are facing to share how they overcame them.
I believe there is power in someone telling another person that I did it, hence, you can also do it,” she points out. Banda says her work in these networks got her to where she is now, a youth representative for national forums where she advocates issues affecting young people and the need to include them in decision making processes on issues that affect their lives.
She is the third born in a family of four children comprising two boys and two girls. She was born in Mzuzu before her parents moved to Mulanje and later to Lilongwe where she has spent most of her life.
The normalcy of family life was shattered for them in the year 2000 when her parents separated.
“I had to get used to life without my father around. This would have been devastating for any woman in terms of adjusting to taking care of four children on her own, but my mother was very resilient and determined to make it on her own.
She worked as an administrative assistant in one of the government departments and the pay wasn’t all that good, but she had strong business acumen.
“She worked hard in different business ventures to ensure that we didn’t lack. She encouraged us to work hard in our education as that was the surest way to safeguard our future. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2003 when I was in Form Two,” she says.
Through her maternal uncles who supported her secondary school education, she passed her Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) at Likuni Girls Secondary School with good points and was selected to Chancellor College to pursue a Bachelor of Arts Humanities Degree in Media for Development, graduating in 2011.
Although Banda did not experience the job hunting stress after college having found employment before graduation, she was not contented. She always dreamed to work in the development sector to complement interventions that improve people’s lives.
So, she quit her one year contract and went into a volunteer position as HIV prevention and behaviour change officer at World University Service of Canada (Wusc)-Malawi.
She later got employed as a project officer for the Academic and Leadership Programme for girl refugees at Dzaleka Refugee Camp with the same organisation.
“From the volunteer platform, I also developed a passion for health research; hence, decided to sharpen my skills in the area.
I went for a health research internship offered by the National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) becoming the first female intern at the Centre for Social Research ever hosted.
Growing up, Banda understands how she could have made some decisions differently if she had guidance from others who had gone through the system before her.
This is what made her realise that while she did not have mentors growing up, she can make it happen for her fellow young people. Ever since she began the mentorship quest, she has spoken to more than 1 500 students.
In motivating other students, the 28-year-old believes their self-confidence in preparing for examinations is increased and they can pass their secondary school education to make the right choice college courses.
“I also believe that once they see younger people like us with similar backgrounds, they will easily emulate our example which would mean more youths going further with their education and being open to the changing world that has limited formal job opportunities.
They would also see the need for being innovative and even create jobs,” she says. As a young person, Banda says she thought about how best to contribute to the country’s development and found that helping fellow youths realise the importance of education was one way she could contribute to government’s efforts of educating as many Malawians as possible.
“I believe that we will all be gone one day, but the things we are going to be remembered for are those we did for others, no matter how small. I would like to encourage young people to make an impact to those around them with the capabilities they have.
“I have done simple things such as editing young people’s Curriculum Vitae, discussing their education or career choices and telling them not to give up on their quest to success which have ended up impacting people in a great way than I could ever imagine. If I have done this, you also can, with determination and passion,” Banda advises.
She calls on the youth to take part in the various initiatives around them as a way of nurturing their self-confidence to do greater things and give back to their communities.