“Leaders are born as well as made, but when they are born in Africa, they are not always recognized. To give more young women the opportunity to develop their talents and put their skills to work, today’s leaders must clear a path for the female leaders of tomorrow.” Joyce Banda, Former President of the Republic of Malawi.

My mentor. Dr. Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi

On this International Day of the Girlchild, I would like to highlight Dr. Joyce Banda, the former president of the Republic of Malawi. An entrepreneur, activist, politician, and philanthropist. She was Malawi’s first female president and Africa’s second. Voted as Africa’s most powerful woman by Forbes Magazine for two years running and voted as one of the most powerful women in the world, Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda is a champion for the rights of women, children, the disabled, and other marginalized groups.

I first met Dr. Joyce Banda in 2015. After doing a research of prominent African women leaders. I was touched by her work in advocating for the rights of the girl child. I reached out to Dr. Banda and she responded by inviting me to meet with her in Virginia. We spend more than four hours together. She told me about her journey from serving as a Member of Parliament, Minister of Gender and Child Welfare; and Foreign Minister and Vice President of the Republic of Malawi.  She shared her own personal story of being a victim of domestic violence. While serving as Minister of Gender and Child Welfare, she championed the enactment of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill in 2006, which provides a legal framework for the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

Dr. Banda is a strong advocate for women and girls’ emancipation and empowerment and a prominent civil rights campaigner. She founded the Joyce Banda Foundation International, which guides projects that range from empowering women to providing for orphans’ education. To learn more, please visit her page Joyce Banda Foundation

Dr. Joyce Banda girlchild

One of her passion is sending out the message of the importance of advancing young girls to be global leaders. As a Distinguished Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Global citizenship, Dr. Banda focused her research on the importance of advancing young girls to be global leaders. On the day of her final presentation, Dr, Banda invited two of her young mentees, myself (Mongai) and Alessia Alessandra de Borbon  to join her as a panelist as she presented her research to the public.  In her presentation, she argued why it is necessary to have female leaders. She noted that women leaders mobilize and work together. They network for the benefit of others, reach out and support others, take risks and fight corruption. Dr. Banda discussed her hypothesis that many individuals are born with the traits that help one become a successful leader but that these traits are not often nurtured in young women. She focused on the importance of nurturing these traits at a very young age. She also noted that in some parts of the world there are challenges such as a lack of economic empowerment, inadequate training, and poor or inaccurate media coverage which affects the development of young leaders.

Dr. Banda recommended ways to help young girls to become global leaders. “We have to start at the household level to change beliefs. We have to make families want to send their girls to school”. She stressed the importance of  providing girls with quality education as well as strengthening regional and international women’s networks. She added that it is important to mobilize rural leadership and to support local organizations that offer culturally appropriate training programs. Dr. Banda ended with a call to action for other women leaders around the world:  “We have a moral responsibility to reach out and support young girls; it is our duty to mobilize, mentor, and support young women.”

Following Dr. Banda’s presentation, Alessia and I offered advice on how to become a leader at a young age, at school and in the community.

On July 17th, 2018, she invited me to her book launch at the Center of Global citizenship in Washington DC. The title of her book is “From Day One” why girls aged 0 to 10 is critical to change Africa’s path. In this, she makes the case of how if African girls are to realize their potential and become the leaders that their continents so badly needs, then gender intervention should and can start from day one. She has seen firsthand how young rural girls face obstacles that shape the rest of their lives. She draws from both her own childhood experiences and the wealth of knowledge she had accumulated throughout her career to offer lessons on how to help African girls reach full potential. The points that Dr. Banda makes in this book can be applied to girls all over the world.  Dr. Joyce BandaTo get a copy of her book “From Day one” please visit Amazon.com

President Banda is a mentor to older women and younger girls. She takes these girls under her arms and would invite them to join her at round table discussions, panel events and meetings. She has a habit of reaching out to her mentees by phone calls and emails, to encourage them and support them. I have been blessed to have Dr. Banda as a mentor in my life. She is never too busy to answer a phone call even when she is at the UN attending meetings. No wonder she is named to the United Nations Council of Women World Leaders. She sits on a number of international organizational bodies and she is a recipient of more than fifteen international awards. Thank you, Mama Joyce for advocating for the girl child. For being mentor so we can all follow from your example and for creating platforms where we can share our passions.  #girlstakeover #dayofthegirl and #girlhero!