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From kaunjika seller to the palace: Tracing Joyce Banda's steps


In the next twenty-four or so hours, the annuals of Malawi will be characterized by the high-profiled visit to its boarders by the third most important person in United States, and therefore world political landscape.

This is the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This will be the first time a Secretary of State has ever set foot on Malawi soil. It is both an honor and privilege for Malawi, and marks the continuation of the growing warmer friendship between Malawi and the western allies. And this isn’t a bad thing. It’s also not a by-chance visit, it most definitely isn’t the result of a calculated move by our Big Brother from across the Atlantic Ocean to come "make advances on the unsuspecting JB to make a case for homosexuality" in exchange for aid.

All the people that have kept abreast all women causes - women in development, women empowerment, advancement of women, women equality, women in decision making positions - will appreciate the visit of Hillary Clinton for what it is: for starters, to commend President Joyce Banda for the smooth transition from the very messy two-day impasse when the country and indeed the rest of the world was made to hold its collective breath, as former head of state, who had suffered a heart attack, was ferried to South Africa.

But this discourse isn’t about the bungling of the reaction of the death of a president. Let’s unpack the idea that President Joyce Banda is clueless. First of all, what is she clueless about? Is JB clueless that the Western Allies are coming to Africa to make a case for homosexuality? That with her change of attitude on homosexuality – she wants homophobic laws scrapped – Malawi will get aid?

This theory is as far from reality as similarities between water and fire. Within days of taking power following the passing of President Bingu Wa Mutharika, President Joyce Banda, very aware of the raging battles that were going on both openly and behind closed doors, announced that as President of the Republic of Malawi, she was opening the debate on the issue of homosexuality, so that everyone in the country can have their say on the matter.
The matter is to be discussed, and once the country has discussed it and given their views, then a decision will be made on the matter.

Let's agree on this point: President Joyce Banda is not clueless as her detractors have falsely claimed.

Let’s also agree if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will make any comment or advice on the matter, as head of state of a sovereign state, President Joyce Banda will inform her visitor that the matter has been given to the people of Malawi to debate.

Again let’s agree that President Joyce Banda isn’t clueless.
As an introduction on who or what makes Joyce Banda the woman she is, a woman that is very well-informed, an educated woman, a woman more intelligent than your average male technocrat; and most of all, a woman that isn’t clueless!

Joyce Banda once sold second-hand clothes, ran a tailoring shop; she hit the glass ceiling in bureaucratic Malawi and was a victim of domestic violence. In short, she has walked the shoes of the vulnerable woman.

The first born in a family of five, one could say, one of the great attributes JB has is that of a great listener and observer. From observing other women and listening to their plight, so similar to her own in many ways, led her to establish the National Association of Business Women of Malawi (NABW). Through this, a selfless spirit of a desire to uplift every woman up through training, and giving of loans began. This started small and grew from district to district and before long NABW was a national phenomenon, a household name. And the listener and observer had begun the long journey to the state house.

This of course was via Beijing, via Parliament, via several ministerial posts and finally the second biggest job in Malawi, that of Vice President of the Republic.

This isn’t a biography of JB, so let’s end here with the point that President Joyce Banda is not clueless.
©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment

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