By: Gertrude Kabwazi, AGE Africa Country Director

They are girls today but, womanhood beckons them tomorrow. The early bird catches the worm, so they say. Indeed those who prepare early and well have a greater chance of joining the decision making tables and circles of influence. But “early and well” does not always just happen. Many times it needs to be made to happen. AGE Africa’s CHATS program helps to prepare adolescent girls early and well for school and post-school leadership. We acknowledge that leadership is not only an inherent characteristic but also involves a set of skills that can be developed and nurtured over time. The program provides an opportunity to orient girls to leadership, providing them with opportunities to both learn and develop their leadership skills.

AGE Scholars with Chief Kachindamoto at the All-Scholars Retreat

Currently in Malawi, there is an imbalance between male and female leaders, an indicator that more must be done to ensure that young women assume these positions now and in the future. Girls are struggling to overcome barriers in their pursuit of leadership positions and they need to be adequately prepared for these challenges. AGE Africa understands that bringing women to the decision-making tables is one thing and just half the job. The challenge is to keep them there and ensure their effectiveness. AGE Africa facilitates skills development in areas such as decision making, stress management, and conflict resolution, all of which are essential to effective leadership that ensures that women remain in and influence decision making.

In July, AGE Africa gathered over 80 girls together, to challenge them, enable them to reflect and learn more about leadership. The conference theme, “Girls in Leadership: Leadership by Choice not by Chance”, attracted women leaders’ voices including the Minister of Gender herself, Dr. Jean Kalilani, who encouraged the girls to aspire for greatness and become effective leaders in different spheres. Other women who shared their stories and experiences included Oxfam Malawi Deputy Country Director, Linga Mihowa, Old Mutual Chief Executive Officer Edith Jiya, Malawi’s girls’ education champion Chief Kachindamoto, Malawi’s Former First Lady Calister Mutharika, Former Minister of Information and Member of Parliament Patricia Kaliati, and Pastor Towera Masiku, Word Alive Ministries.