“When women don’t have education, they don’t have empowerment,” Amujae Coach and former President of Malawi Dr. Joyce Banda stressed during a recent conversation with former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard.
The discussion began with Dr. Banda sharing details of her personal experiences from childhood through to her presidency. While her path to leadership had not been easy, Dr. Banda maintained that getting an education—and the economic empowerment that this gave her—allowed her to overcome obstacles and challenges that stood in her way. Realizing that it was her mission in life to help “women gain social and political empowerment through business and education,” Dr. Banda’s policies throughout her public leadership career have reflected her commitment to championing women’s rights. Prior to becoming President, Dr. Banda served as Malawi’s Minister of Gender and Child Welfare. Under her leadership, the country passed its Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, which provides a legal framework for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.
Broadening the discussion to the state of women’s leadership in Africa, Dr. Banda said:
“I don’t want to pretend women, is a bed of roses. It’s not—it’s tough. But I always say to my fellow women, we have to participate in leadership. I think the advantage that Africa has, that other parts of the world don’t, is that historically were leaders. We led our nations before colonization.”
She also pointed out the progress that African women leaders have already made, highlighting that several of “the countries with the highest number of women in parliament on the continent of Africa.”
Concluding the discussion by looking to the future of gender equality in Africa, Dr. Banda was optimistic:
“What makes me so hopeful as an African woman is how African women have continued to rise and what we have been able to achieve… No one can say we are not achieving anything. But what we need to do is continue.”
Watch Dr. Banda’s full interview with Julia Gillard, who is also Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, here.