Joyce Banda – Against The Odds

There was very little assistance for Joyce Banda on her career-path. In fact, there was a lot of opposition.

Callista Mutharika, the ex-First Lady of Malawi, Africa, once scoffed at Joyce Banda’s political aspirations saying ‘how can a mandasi (fritters) seller be President?” No doubt, there was a lot of agreement in the political and social ranks. It seemed absurd, if not impossible.

Born on 12 April 1950 in Malemia a village in Zomba, Malawi, Joyce had indeed begun her working life as a humble seller of mandasi in the markets.

But Joyce had a passion that would take her further. Her mission in life, she said, was “to assist women in social and political empowerment through business and education.”

Between 1985 and 1997 she managed and established various businesses and organisations including Ndekani Garments (1985), Akajuwe Enterprises (1992), and Kalingidza Bakery (1995). Her success moved her to help other women achieve financial independence and break the cycles of abuse and poverty.

In 1990, she established the National Association of Business Women in Malawi – an organization that lends start-up cash for small scale business people. It has grown to incorporate a social network of 30,000 women, dedicated to supporting women’s businesses and those who want to participate in business. Its activities include business training, technical training, record keeping and management skills.

In 2000 she founded the Young Emerging Leaders Network which mentors female students in school and aims to enhance leadership skills among young executives.

Next, was the Joyce Banda Foundation, to assist Malawian children and orphans through education and includes a complex of primary and secondary schools with an orphan care centre. It also provided seeds to over 10,000 farmers and other donations to the rural sector.
Pretty impressive climb for a girl who began her career working in the markets.

Commenting on her drive and fortitude, Joyce explained “My father once told me when I was a young girl that I was destined to do great things. His belief in my abilities and ambition is rooted deeply in the spirit of Malawians; resilient and determined for a better Malawi and a better Africa.”

But it was on her way to Presidency that her true strength shone through. In her position as Vice-President, she survived an assassination attempt by the Government; the Government barred her from State House and cabinet meetings in an attempt to sideline her right to the Presidency. Yet she succeeded.

In June 2013, Joyce Banda celebrated a year as President. “It’s heavy,” she told a group of Nigerian journalists “But I am able to carry it. Why? Because I’m an African woman. An African woman carries heavy loads anyway. That’s how we are trained; we are brought up that nothing is unbearable. I use that now, positively. I use that now to have the thick skin that I have, and not fear, and move forward, and push; and push forward”

In 2012, Joyce Banda was ranked by Forbes Magazine

· Most powerful Woman in the World 2012, Forbes Magazine – rank # 71
· Most powerful Woman in Africa 2012, Forbes Magazine – rank #1

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