Joyce Banda

By Our Contributor

WASHINGTON-(MaraviPost)-Following participating in a mammoth Friday rally in Naisi, Zomba, one of six Grand Alliance countrywide whistle stops, Malawi’s former President Dr. Joyce Banda stepped into a virtual conference room and spent three hours in a conversation on women’s empowerment.

The virtual conversation, titled “The time for change is now – Remaining relevant – Post-COVID 19,” was organized by Future Focus Empowerment Institute International, Mtukulo Foundation and Apex Development drew participation of 350 guests from around the world.

The Global Women’s Empowerment Virtual Conference WEC 2020) held on Friday, May 22, 2020, and was supposed to last for two hours, went into overtime as participants who instantly became enchanted by Dr. Banda, sought to learn more about her journey to the office of the president of Malawi.

During her presentation, Dr. Banda, who has for the past 40 years championed empowerment of women started her conversation with the women by stating the conference’s hook line sinker statement: “leadership is a love affair; you fall in love with the people you serve, and they must fall in love with you.”

The former president, who told the participants that she never grew up thinking or dreaming that one day she would be president or go into public service, said there are three things that keep women from public office.

These are money, the ridicule women get from the media, and patriarchy. On the issue of patriarchy, the former president advised that women seeking public office must choose their teams carefully.

She added that the love affair establishes a constituency and love for service.

Later in response to a question, Dr. Banda said, it was her passion to service especially to women and girls in areas of education, income generation, maternal health, that propelled her to public office.

She said that once in office, she promoted women and had a 34 percent of women in her cabinet.

She also set out to help young leaders. She called on professional women to work together and support women in leadership positions.

There were four panels health and mental wellness, women and the future of education, women and technology, and women and entrepreneurship.

The following are nuggets of wisdom gleaned from each panel in the three-hour women empowerment and remaining relevant in the time of COVID conversation.

Janet Karim

Dr. Safeeya Mohammed: We must rebuild our resilient mindset; ask what your superpower is. We have to adapt; resilience is higher in women.

Janet Karim: Teaching in the time of corona will never be the same. Apart from reaching out to students and conducting their classes, many teachers also have children at home and that is taking part in distance learning. We must work toward setting equitable access to education, so that young people everywhere receive the highest education possible and are well equipped to play their roles in developing their respective countries.

Dr. Safeeya Mohammed

Dr. Camille Alleyne: in the STEM sector, there is a gender gap, one quarter of it are women and even fewer women of color. More gender equality leads to fewer women getting into STEM

Renee Cummings: There is a new normal, we must become part of the new reality. We must feminize artificial intelligence. We have to re-brand, re-image, re-invent, and re-position to be relevant in post-COVID 19. AI is everywhere, data is important. It’s a technological revolution. The divide is widening.

Stephanie Nuesi:  We only hear about male entrepreneurs; is this the legacy we will leave our children? Today is the future and the future is happening now.

Heather Richmond: You will do the most when you do what you are passionate about. We need to think beyond the box, about food, water, and shelter. There are 828 people in the world that go to sleep hungry. We need to look to agriculture

Taniesha Campbell: When we lock arms, we create a catalyst for change. I hope you have been edified by the conversation and collectively empower women.

Child poet, author and empowerment speaker Natalie Wambui highlighted her work as an author and the work she does among youth in Kenya.

The event was moderated by Colette Cyrus Burnett.

In her closing remarks, Crystal Camejo encouraged the participants to move forward together collectively and ensure that no woman is left behind.

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