Malawi leader receives award in US: Challenges African women to be resilient

President Joyce Banda, on Friday, September 21, 2012 challenged women aspiring for leadership positions in Africa not give up, in spite of the challenges and obstacles that they may meet on a leadership journey, saying there will always be a way to surmount them.

The Malaiw leader was presenting a lecture titled “The Resilient Woman Leader: Growing Stronger in the Face of Life’s Storms” when she was Guest Speaker during the 2012 Global Forum on African Women in Leadership held in New York, United States of America.

During the event, President also received an Award as the “African Most Influential Female Leader of the Year” from the Global Forum on African Women in Leadership, according to State House Press Officer, Tusekele Mwanyongo.

President Banda receives the award. -Photo courtesy of State House

“The topic I have been requested to lecture on ‘the Resilient Woman Leader: Growing Stronger in the Face of Life’s Storms’ accurately describes the life journey of most women including myself,” President Banda said, explaining that ‘resilience’ is the capacity to bounce back from misfortune, disruptive change, and failures.

“Some Psychologists, however, say it is that quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, the resilient individual finds a way to rise from the ashes,” she said.

She said going by such definitions, truly the upbringing of girls into women in Africa makes them develop this quality because in most African cultures, young women are taught to be tough in spite of the difficulties that they go through. President Banda said it is that African trait that helped her to survive the storms in her life.

Economic empowerment

According to the Press Officer, President Banda explained that she strongly believes that economic empowerment of women is a getaway to their social and political empowerment, observing that for most women in Africa, one of the instruments of our liberation and resilience is the ability to be economically empowered.

The President revealed that based on that conviction, she drew her mission in life, which is “to economically and socially empower women and youth through entrepreneurship and education”.

“My success in achieving economic independence moved me to help other women achieve financial independence and break the cycles of abuse and poverty through the establishment of a non-profit organization, the National Business Women Association of Malawi in 1989. NABW is a grass-root organization that distributes soft loans to small and medium scale business women,” she said.

President Banda addedthat through NABW, she witnessed the building of resilience of women; heard stories of women whose lives had changed; and witnessed women who had regained themselves, women who had moved from a situation of not knowing where they next meal will come from, to women who placed food on the table purchased from their own income.

Veep experience

President Banda also talked about the challenges she faced on her journey to becoming Head of State in Malawi. She said she was privileged to be the woman elected as Vice President in 2009.

“Unfortunately, no sooner had I settled in my office, than my troubles begun. I was embroiled in a succession controversy. As Vice President of the country, logically I was positioned to aspire for the Presidency when the term of the incumbent would come to an end.

“However, the controversy arose because there was another candidate being groomed – the President’s brother and on a matter of principle, I refused to endorse this candidate without following the due process they party should have taken,” said Banda, adding that as expected, this resulted in an irreconcilable position, and one thing led to another.

“Simply put, I had a difficult time as Vice President. The government machinery went on propaganda attacking and humiliating me in public rallies, on the public radio and television. Some of my privileges as Vice President were withdrawn, I was incapacitated and isolated. What remained for me was the constitutional position of Vice President, which they could not remove me from,” she recalled, adding that during those storms, her faith and resilience were tested but overcame the storms and grew stronger as a woman leader.

Executive Director of the Centre for Economic and Leadership Development, Furo Giami hailed President Banda for her resilience and that she was a testimony that women in Africa can attain higher leadership positions in various sectors.

The Centre aims at harnessing and enhancing the leadership potential of women in leadership positions in Africa. Its vision is to empower women and vulnerable children in achieving their full potential is of great significance to Africa as a continent, “because Africa’s development is interconnected with women’s empowerment”.

President Banda speaking at the event -Photo courtesy of State House
President Banda after being presented the award -Photo courtesy of State House
Invited guests -Photo courtesy of State House

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