More often than not, development workers do not make headlines. They live their lives away from home, work their way, stand side by side in changing lives and communities. Many times, they are not given the praise they deserve.
Some 50 years ago, James Brown wrote ‘This is a man’s world”, and thankfully, more than five decades later, that notion is breaking into pieces as women from all walks of life demonstrate just how capable they are to read and lead, not just by mouth, but in deeds. At World Vision, we have many of these women. And they push and inspire all of us forward in our quest to change children’s lives.
Through our 33 Area Development Programmes and grant-funded projects, we have 148 women across different positions, including three in our six-member the Senior Leadership Team. We are an experienced, but modern brand that believes in equality and the potential of our people.
March 8th marks International Women’s Day 2021, and the team at World Vision's Malawi office is celebrating the inspiring women helping to make a positive difference in the country through World Vision. These women joined 'the orange of hope' from all walks of life and have achieved things most of us could only dream of, and that’s precisely why they deserve their moment of recognition. Through them, we hope the next generation of women and men are inspired to follow their lead and continue to push the boundaries in the progressive direction of their chosen field. So, without further ado, here are our eight inspiring women to celebrate on International Women’s Day 2021.
Loyce Magompho, District Coordinator
With her Junior Certificate, Loyce joined World Vision Malawi in 2002 as a cleaner, married, with one lovely child. In 2004, Loyce decided to pursue leadning whilst working. Every day after working from our Limbe office, she walked to Chichiri Secondary School where she attended night classes in readiness for her MSCE. She smashed that exam but didn’t find her way to the university.
In between the years, she pursued education with all she had and kept rising through the ranks in World Vision. She now holds a Master of Arts in Youth Development.
In the midst of the threat of COVID-19, Loyce led a team that included World Vision and government staff in spraying 137,200 households across Balaka to kill mosquitoes and eventually lower the burden of Malaria in the district. As we fight and survive COVID-19, Loyce is among the women leading from the front and helping us create a future free from Malaria. Get ready, she’ll soon be Dr. Loyce!
Deborah Muheka, Technical Manager, WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene)
If you have ever attended any World Vision meeting regarding water, sanitation and hygiene at the national level, chances are high that you have met Deborah. This woman is an epitome of silent leadership.
Deborah joined World Vision in Malawi as a Hydrogeologist, responsible for the engineering aspect of our boreholes done in the villages where we work. In a field dominated by men, Deborah was the first hydrogeologist, not just for World Vision in Malawi, but across the World Vision global partnership. Prior to joining our orange, Deborah had spent years supporting water interventions in a hostile environment in Darfur, Sudan where she worked.
With over 3,500 boreholes constructed by World Vision in Malawi, almost 2,000 of these are attributed to her when she was a Hydrogeologist.
With her special skill of raising leaders where she serves, Deborah has risen her way to become a Technical Manager for all WASH interventions in World Vision. Whenever you see a water point done by World vision, or a village declared Open Defecation Free in our catchment areas, that is Deborah’s critical scream, getting things done.
Deborah holds a Master of Science in Water Resources Engineering and Management.
If you happen to meet her again, talk to her. She is a down-to-earth woman, loves the Lord and acknowledges that she owes her success to God. All of us at World Vision support that attitude, because sometimes, as human beings, we have a sad tendency to think God has nothing to do with where we are.
Georgina Kamanga, Sponsorship Manager
How far can you go in the job you have and in the professional path you’ve chosen? Well, Georgina joined us more than 15 years ago as Secretary to the leadership. Today, so much has changed.
Perhaps you heard that World Vision is child-focused? Well, all our work is done with hope to promote the life and well-being of children wherever we work. Now, the person who oversees that is Georgina. She is our Sponsorship Manager. The woman is sharp and organised.
She is passionate, not just about what she does and her staff, but the children we serve. “At every turn of our work, Georgina reminds us that the goal of our work is to improve children’s lives and ensure that communities are changing for the better”, says Chikumbutso, one of the 300 staff members who work under Georgina’s supervision.
We celebrate Georgina for the change-maker she is and the fact that she gives results in a department from which more is demanded in our Ministry. Georgina holds a Bachelor of Arts in Development and is studying for a Masters in the same field.
Pennia Mavedzenge, Grants Acquisition and Management Director
Pennia has been in Word Vision for nearly 9 years. It’s been a long journey for her. She started in the field as a Humanitarian Accountability officer in 2008.
They did food distributions and she was there ensuring that people’s voices could be heard. She left and returned as programme officer in 2011 when she had her first take as a grants proposal person.
She became senior programme officer for two years and went on to become a regional quality assurance officer for grants. Prior to coming to World Vision in Malawi, Pennia supported the office when there was space.
She worked as a community facilitator for a livelihood project funded by DFID at our partner organisation, Oxfam. She rode a motorcycle for more than even 40 kilometres. She is familiar with boots and heavy blazers as a field worker. One of her fond memories of field work came during her time with Oxfam. She fell from a motorbike. With no one in sight, on her own, she had to pick herself up. And as she grew professionally, many times she has picked herself up. There was no shortcut. She believed it from the very start that regardless of anything, she had to fight her way and be patient about the process.
When asked about World Vision and her humanitarian work journey, she had this to say.
“Our purpose is not to be an end in ourselves, but to be a channel of hope. I don’t write a proposala to win money, I write to inspire hope and change in people. In Word Vision, I love the identity that we have, where we can express ourselves for who we are and say we are Christian”.
Pennia holds an MPA in Public and Development Management, University of Stellenbosch-(South Africa), B.A Honors in Public Administration, University of Stellenbosch (S.A), B.A Honors’ in Economic History, University of Zimbabwe, and Post-Graduate Diploma in Project Planning and Management, University of Zimbabwe.
Edwinah Hanjahanja, Associate Director for Programme Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
At the peak of Nation Publications Limited’s Sleep over challenge to fundraise for Ntchisi hospitals, Edwinah challenged and represented us all at World Vision.
Together with her daughter, they shared the cold floor of the hospital to raise resources and awareness on the challenges pregnant mothers encounter in Malawian public hospitals. That is Edwinah, a leader by day, humanitarian when it matters and mother all the time.
During her secondary school days, Edwinah was told that girls don’t do well in science subjects. However, the person in her worked hard to defy this myth. This persistence took her to Chancellor college where she studied pure sciences for her undergrad, with honours in chemistry.
After years of teaching, Edwinah joined the development industry through the emergency response sector where she served as project officer. Later on, she joined the HIV/AIDS response where she rose to the position of Head of Programmes for Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association. She further served the Malawi Health Sector Programme as Operations Manager before embracing the orange, where she is Associate Director for Programme Effectiveness and Quality Assurance.
“Work in quality assurance involves developing and implementing systems within development programmes so that they become more efficient and effective in delivering the intended results. It also involves measures the performance of the programmes”, said Edwinah when questioned on the significance of monitoring systems.
Today, Edwinah holds a Masters in Development Studies and continues with her studies.
Reflecting on her journey, Edwinah advises young people to be patient; to learn and grow their skills, discover their strengths and respect everyone in the workplace. “Do not despise the days of humble beginnings. Every little positive or negative experience builds you up”.
Catherine Omenda, Finance Director and Interim National Director, World Vision Malawi
If you want to talk about career adventures, Catherine’s path is all inspirational. Her adventures and new opportunities, many of which she was not prepared for, and a journey of covenant made to do God’s will wherever He would lead her, leave us all amazed and challenged.
Catherine started working with Pricewaterhousecoopers as an auditor where she learnt the value of character, integrity and excellence. She joined the orange through World Vision's Kenya Office where she worked as the internal audit manager and later was tasked to set up the East Africa regional audit function. She later served as Finance Director for World Vision's Kenya Office.
As a Christian humanitarian worker, Catherine is inspired when she sees change that is wrought in people’s lives as a result of the work she does.
“I love seeing the light that comes into a child’s eyes when they can read aloud for the first time at one of the reading clubs we support. I am grateful for the chance that we are given to know that the work we are doing makes a difference. For me it is not a job, my work is my ministry to God and daily I remind myself it is a trust that I cannot break” says Catherine.
She urged young people never to be in a hurry, never to rush to get to the top, to get rich, to become successful.
“My advice is for you to enjoy the journey. Take each stage as an opportunity to build the character you will need to keep you at the top. Character is only built by going through adversity, enduring through delays and embracing challenges”, challenges Catherine.
She further demands of young people to have a measure of success, to define for themselves and make it about more than monetary wealth.
“There are more precious things than money and sadly they are lost most often in pursuit of wealth. Family, giving back to community, learning, social impact. Faith”.
Scader Louis, Risk and Compliance Manager
Scader joined us in 2002, aged 21, as Customer Service Facilitator for Ching’anda community in Mangochi with her MSCE. We love Scader at World Vision. Her life story and resilience to life’s adversities makes her a perfect leader to have around.
After losing her father at age 12, her mother died just when Form 1 was just about to happen for her in 1999.
Thankfully, her secondary school was run by Catholic nuns who decided to take her in as their own. They were afraid the life of the village would swallow her off the path God was preparing for her.
Scader went on to be the first girl and student at her school to score 23 points. Sadly, she did not make it to the University. Because she had two brothers to look after, she couldn’t think of getting back into secondary school either, she needed a job. She joined World Vision.
After getting her job, she convinced her supervisor to allow her to enrol for studies at the Malawi College of Accountancy (MCA). Every week, she travelled 120 kilometres from Chiphole to Mangochi boma and another 150 to Blantyre, in search for her accounting dream.
One fateful day, on 24 April 2004, as she returned from school, a minibus she was travelling in had a tyre burst. Her leg broken and her spine damaged, she spent the whole of that year going under the knife in different hospitals. Everything came to a standstill. Hope on the accounting dream was just a dream, with no hope of coming true.
“I got to a place where I wasn’t trusting myself. I didn’t think I could make it. But one woman from World Vision pushed me”, says Scader, referring to Marion Chindongo who was World Vision’s leader in Blantyre, then.
Apart from encouraging her, Marion always brought her accounting books. And when she decided to go back to school, she still supported her. On a wheelchair. In class and a clerical job at job World Vision, Scader soon saw the world open before her. She started believing in herself. She passed her examinations decisively.
In 2010, Scader became the dream of many, a Chartered Accountant. Today, she is studying for an MBA with the university of East London and she is World Vision Malawi’s Risk and Compliance Manager. She encourages every boy and girl to pursue their calling fervently.
“Wherever we are and in whatever physical condition we may be, God has given us the tools to contribute to the change we aspire to see. Even without my legs, even if God was going to give me just the head and hands, I would still find ways to discover my purpose in life and serving him with all I have”, says Scader.
Inspired by her life, Scader joined hands with some friends to Co-found the Spinal Injuries Association of Malawi. Among several responsibilities she is fulfilling for Malawi, Scader is an Executive council member for FEDOMA (Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi) as well as Commissioner for Malawi Human Rights Commission where she is responsible for the disability and elderly rights directorate, finance and other committees. She also sits on other numerous boards advancing lives and inclusion of people living with disability.
Immaculate Bottoman, Associate Director, North Zone
Immaculate is an ardent football and Liverpool fan. She joined us some 25 years ago as Secretary in one of the Area Programmes where we worked. Having joined the organiSation, she realised she had the potential to do more than what she was doing. She enrolled for school whilST working.
Because of who we are, we identified Immaculate’s special skills and attributes in leadership. World Vision later enrolled Immaculate on a three-year course for development practitioners with the University of South Africa, from where she funded herself for her first degree and Honours. Today, she holds an MSc. in Transformative Community Development from Mzuzu University.
For the past 15 years, Immaculate has led at different levels, contributing to improving lives of children, women and families.
“What inspires me more about doing humanitarian and development work is to see more children go to school in a conducive environment, transformed livelihoods for women and reduction of child illnesses that usually burden women’s participation in social, political and economic activities”, she says.
Immaculate urges young women not to focus on their past failures, focus on now and the future. “No matter how hostile the environment is, young women can create space for themselves to become better leaders and Philippians 3: 13 – 14 always preaches to me”.
Our list is incomplete. There’s a crowd of other women that have gone unmentioned. Honestly, if we were to list every woman worthy of this space, we’d be here until the next edition of INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY. The commonality of all women in World Vision, on and off this list, is their unwavering dedication to their cause for the child and for God, no matter the cHALLENGES THEY PASS THROUGH. As IWD 2021 rolls around, WE URGE YOU TO get the conversation started by showering appreciation on the critical women in your LIFE AND PROFESSIONAL circle.