Temwa Chirembo: Co-Founder of Ukani Malawi

Most people don’t realise, but they mourn their lack of achievement because they cannot tell the difference between a dream and wishful thinking.

Temwa Chirembo, 22, tells a different story. She says a dream is what you do.

She is co-founder of Ukani Malawi, a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) whose focus is on girl empowerment and gender equality in Malawi’s three regions.

The young woman runs various programmes such as entrepreneurship, leadership training and career day talks in secondary schools.

She also holds seed grant initiatives and mentorship programmes.

Among her contributions, those that stand out are the breaking red project which trains girls in menstruation health hygiene management and the distribution of reusable pads.

She also provides girls with skills on how to make them. The projects’ aim is to ensure girls don’t miss school and don’t drop out.

Through this intervention, Ukani has reached out to 600 girls since its conception in 2016-with funding from Usaid- through the World Connect Implement.

The second that stands out is the Young Mothers’ Project which integrates teenage mothers who have dropped out of school back into school through financial support and mentorship.

Under the same, they have the teenage pregnancy prevention programme that raises awareness on HIV and Aids in which they also provide training on sexual reproductive health.

This was launched in January 2018 and is currently working with 20 girls, 12 of which have returned to primary school and eight to secondary school.

All this, Temwa carries out with her founding partner 21-year-old Modester Mangilani and 75 volunteers who have been trained in leadership and entrepreneurship.

On how they started, Temwa says all they had was a dream.

“We started in July 2016. We have struggled with funding having started with less than K4 500.”

“We had a dream to change the lives of Malawian girls so we had to continuously hold fund raising events and sometimes financing for events would be hard,” she says.

The absolute attitude of the two founding partners tells more of their belief in their dream made reality.

Modester says the problems and battles the Malawian girl child goes through kept pulling at her heart.

She says the Malawian favours boys, and she feels duty bound to make sure that girls such as herself are given equal opportunities.

She says seeing hope restored, the new light instilled in the girls after they work together and excited for the future, she cannot compare this satisfaction to anything else.

“Every day is a new experience. I have gotten to meet extraordinary people and learned so much from them which builds me and gives me new passion to do what I do”, exclaims Modester.

She says she loves being part of the fight for change and gender equality and no time has been favourable to women than now.

Modester believes now is the time for the girl to become anything she dreams.

She says she was that young person who was afraid to take a bold step and in many situations, still finds it hard to do so.

“Seize the day. You’re never too young to go for what you want. In fact, going after it while young is even better,” she adds.

Modester advises not to let anything hold anyone back.

“Ukani started off on doubts, too, being worried about whether people are going to take us seriously or not. Two years down the line, we are doing so much more than we imagined,” she says.

You may not know everything it takes to make your dreams work, but sitting around, waiting to have everything figured out is no help, according to her.

Modester observes that it is not true that it takes money to start something.

She says their organisation started with nothing, yet, they have been able to reach many girls.

She further observes that not everyone needs materials to be helped or money as advice goes a long way in motivating someone, helping them see life differently and giving them purpose to pursue greater things.

Currently, a fourth year student Modester confesses that balancing the two can be tricky.

“It can get overwhelming sometimes, but time management and knowing one’s limits help; as well as getting one’s priorities straight.

For Temwa, in addition to running Ukani Malawi, she works part time with the Forum for Aids Counselling and Training as a mentor and trainer in Thyolo which aims at reducing child marriages and pregnancies.

She has just completed her studies at the Polytechnic, where she was studying for a degree in business administration.

In the past, she also served as director of women’s affairs and senate representative for the University of Malawi students’ union.

Equally to Modester, juggling the students’ union, her organisation and being a student, was her biggest trial, yet.

She says it was really hard, but she triumphed, as she had to learn time management and that she spent it doing beneficial things.

She is also a 2018 Young African Leadership (Yali) alumni where she got training in civic leadership.

Temwa plans to continue working with Ukani and the development sector. She one day hopes to join politics.

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