Andikuza Litete-Makhumula, 59, is the brains behind Literacy for Change (L4C) Trust, an organisation geared at addressing illiteracy and poverty among marginalised social groups, particularly women and girls with disabilities.
L4C does this through adult literacy and community development activities.
Among other things, the mother of two has been instrumental in developing research topics to advance women’s empowerment and financial inclusion.
She has also been involved in various activities linked to women’s financial literacy, access to finance, strengthening the business environment for women entrepreneurs and fast-tracking women’s leadership in the financial sector.
She wore the hat of executive director and founder for L4C after retirement, following 30 years of humanitarian experience in the United Nations (UN) system working with United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and World Food Programme (WFP) at national and international levels — specifically in Pacific Asia (Myanmar).
Litete-Makhumula says she first became aware of issues surrounding the plight of women while growing up in her hometown Zomba, the then capital city of Malawi.
She explains: “Although we lived in town, my late father always insisted that we spend holidays in the village. His viewpoint was that we should experience both sides of life.”
Despite the poverty and hardships of life in the village, she still cherished some moments such as the warm moonlit nights when all the children as well as her mother and aunts would sit in the yard and tell stories.
“My mother was always the lead storyteller,” she recalls. “She would tell stories about the singing birds, the smart hare and the greedy hyena and his misadventures. Some nights, our mothers would instill in us some beliefs and values,” she adds.
Some of those distinct values she recalls, included calls for them to be sensitive to the plight of others and to act whenever they see injustice.
By her final year in primary school, most of the girls she grew up with in the village had been married off and some of them were forced into marriage.
Consequently, the village visits were no longer as exciting as before and the visits were minimised.
She remembers that one time while driving to the village when she got older, she was flagged down by anxious looking women.
Upon stopping, they told her that there was a woman in labour and that they only had a donkey cart to carry her.
“The young woman was lying under a tree. Her expressionless gaze told me that she was not with us anymore, but I agreed to take them to the hospital anyway. Upon arrival, the nurses gave us accusing looks and reprimanded us for delaying in bringing the woman to the hospital. On my way back from the hospital, several questions flooded my mind; how many women will die at childbirth? Why did she look so undernourished? Was there something I could have done?” she recalls.
From that moment, the power within her to bring change began to manifest. Years later, she was employed by the UN and while working in the fields, she realised that her experience with poverty and social justice back in her village did not prepare her well enough for what she was to encounter in the fields.
As time flew by, she won a scholarship and got an opportunity to pursue a diploma programme in development leadership in Canada at the Coady International Institute — St. Francis Xavier University.
Through that programme, she got interested and intrigued about issues of social justice, social change, gender and power.
From her many years of interacting with marginalised people at the grassroots, she was constantly reminded of the social inequalities taking place in society.
“It was then that I committed to fighting for equity in access and opportunity,” says Litete-Makhumula.
Later, the Coady Women Leaders Research (2017) fellow learnt that illiteracy was the major cause of poverty, standing in the way of many people from accessing basic needs to flourish.
She also worked on an independent study titled Interventions for Changing Traditional Mindsets and Practices Regarding Gender Disparities and Discriminations among Women, with the basis of learning Adult Literacy and Community Development.
“Adult literacy improves all aspects of life for learners, their families and society at large. They can participate and engage more effectively when dealing with social issues such as politics and basic health services, including HIV and Aids.
“Literacy also liberates and empowers people to make meaningful decisions, choices and actions. It can also help people to reflect on their situations, explore new possibilities, initiate positive and constructive change,” she notes.
However, running the project comes at a cost and as a way of raising funds for the L4C projects, they have invested in Greenleaf Investments — a social enterprise known with portfolios in waste management and sustainable reusable apparels and accessories.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Greenleaf Investments through its sustainability portfolio designs reusable face masks to help prevent and protect people from contracting the novel Corona Virus.
She claims that the reusable face masks are made from 100 percent recycled cotton as per World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. The masks also have an inside pocket where one can insert their own filter for added protection.
Greenleaf is among the 1 000 winners of Digital Africa Competition Programme of French and African partners, and will benefit from funding, training, networking and visibility.
Born in 1960 at St Jean’s Hospital in Domasi, Zomba, Litete-Makhumula holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the Management College of Southern Africa (Mancosa); a post-graduate diploma in Project Management from the University of Cambridge and post-graduate diploma in Strategic Human Resources Management from the Association of Business Executives.
An ardent environmentalist with a passion for gardening and sustainable apparels and accessories, the grandmother of three comes from Kumbwani Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kumtumanji in Zomba.
She is the first-born daughter in a family of seven children born to the late Mr and Mrs. Percy Pearson Litete (the author of Mkwatibwi Wokhumudwa, a Chichewa textbook which was previously used in secondary schools).