By Kumilonje Dzabala, YWCA of Malawi
When anyone hears the term “woman leader”, the initial thought is always along the lines of president, parliamentarian, or chief of a village…something politically inclined. When challenged to think about women leaders a little more, then more interesting answers come up…mother, church leader, older sister, teacher…
One thing that always struck me working in women leadership is that the goals set were often so high and the expectation for immediate change so strong, it seemed it had become common place to often go back to the basics because people didn’t see the results as quickly as they would like.
One reason why this strategy did not work was that empowerment messages for women focused on the current generation of women. Since YWCA Malawi started targeting intergenerational leadership, under the banner of bold and transformational leadership incorporating not only women from different generations but also girls and women from different socioeconomic backgrounds, there has been a rental of spirit, with the understanding that this is a common concern of all women from one’s neighbour, friend, family, village, region, country, world.
To be a “bold leader” is to be a risk taker. We have seen this bold spirit in some of our members who have stood up and said “I am HIV+ and I am here to make a difference”, or “I have left my abusive husband and am now managing my own life”, or “I started a business and now can afford to feed my children”, in a society where being HIV+, having a failed marriage or having no job is cause for societal shunning. Other women have seen the example set by the YWCA women and have slowly begun to realise the power they possess to transform their lives and the lives of the next generation.
“Transformation” always invokes the imagery of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly- that metamorphosis from the ordinary to the extraordinary is what the YWCA is aiming for. We are upending the old way of doing things, giving people who were silent a voice to be heard locally and globally. The YWCA has given girls and women the chance to fellowship, learn and grow, supported by their sisters at local, national and international level.
Women leadership in the YWCA is thus all encompassing. From the local to the global, from the disenfranchised to the passionate, everyone regardless of who they are has a space to be bold and transform into a leader in whatever capacity they so wish, as slowly or as quickly as the process takes, we are on our way to greatness.