Thadzi was also among the 115 young people across Africa, who had the privilege to meet the USA President Barack Obama in 2010 in Washington DC. In 2010, was awarded the Commonwealth Youth Initiative Award and the Youth Development Award by the National Youth Council of Malawi for her outstanding work in youth development.
She is a representative of the regional youth caucus for the Commonwealth Youth Program and is chairperson for the resource mobilisation committee for the yet to be launched Youth Parliament.
She is also vice-chairperson of the Ten Plus Link, an initiative that identifies and promotes the different talents of the youth. She opens up to Paida Mpaso about her life, her passion and her calling.
Which youth development initiatives have you been involved in?
After winning the Commonwealth Youth initiative award three years ago, I started a pig project in Kamphata, Lilongwe, called Share the Gift. This targets underprivileged girls and boys whose parents find it difficult to pay school fees and purchase other important school materials.
I identified four girls and three boys whom I gave two pigs (male and female) each so that as the pigs multiply, they would be able to sell them and make enough money for school fees and other materials. The initiative was also meant to help other children. Today, 15 young people have benefited from the project and are economically empowered.
Around the same year, I also supported two girls from Kawale, Lilongwe, to stay in school. I paid the fees for their MSCE. Doing this does not mean I have money. I have, however, come to the conclusion that we spend so much on cosmetics, weaves and other products. We can spare some of this in aid of the needy.Â I used the little resources I got from the Commonwealth Youth Initiative to help out where I could.. I believe we can all make a difference in the lives of those in need if we cut back on luxuries.
How did you get involved in youth development?
I first got involved through volunteering forÂ Counselling of the Adolescent and Youth Organisation. My work with them exposed me to challenges faced by the youth and I learnt a few skills on addressing the same. Currently, I work with youths in youth organisations as well as those I find in some local communities. The bottom line is that I have limited resources to reach my target youth from economically challenged families who I feel have the potential to make it. I am driven through my thirst to make a difference among my fellow youth.
Do you get paid?
I do not get paid. The only payment I get is seeing a smile light up the face of someone I have just helped. My parents have been very supportive by encouraging me not to give up. They are always praying with me and this keeps me going.
Are you able to measure the impact of your efforts?
I know I am making an impact on peopleâ€™s lives. But then again, I am the type of person who does not believe in numbers when implementing something. To me, keeping five girls in school is a big deal. I would not trade that for anything in the world. I wish I had a little more resources to reach out to more people. I believe people should not be put off by making small changes in the lives of others. If we all lit up our individual tiny lamps, we could light up the whole world.
What made you deserving of a Woda?
My contribution towards youth development in Malawi. I have been board chairperson of National Youth Council of Malawi, a regional youth caucus member for the Commonwealth Youth Programme in Malawi as well as an adviser for the Malawi Advisory Council on strategic planning . And I think it was not just about holding these leadership positions but the fact that I have accomplished quite a few things while holding these trusted positions. For example, on 21 May 2010, National Youth Council was dissolved by government. I was disappointed and told myself that I would not sit back and accept the news. I gathered courage and wrote the late president Professor Bingu wa Mutharika requesting him to reverse the decision and reinstate the National Youth Council of Malawi, which he did in March 2011. Today, many young men and women continue to benefit from the opportunities that the council provides.
Did you expect the award?
No not at all, I couldnâ€™t believe it. You should have seen how shocked I was when they called out my name.
Have there been any other awards apart from WODA?
In 2009, I won the Commonwealth Youth Initiative Award. In 2010, I won theÂ Youth Development and Empowerment Award by National Youth Council of Malawi.
What sets you apart from the rest in what you do?
Itâ€™s the passion that I have for youth development and the strive for excellence in everything I do and touch.
As a youth female leader, what have you sacrificed in order to further your cause?
The law of sacrifice says that you have to give up to go up and so I have sacrificed my free time when I could have been having fun with my friends. I have sacrificed my resources. I have sacrificed my time. Sometimes organisations call me to hold motivational talks at meetings or facilitate workshops when I have personal plans, but because I love youth work I sacrifice everything just to make time for youth development activities and I do not regret this.
What have you learnt from interacting with the youth?
I have learnt that young people have lots of energy. They work towards change and make things happen when they are determined. The challenge for national leadership is to mobilise the youth and use them meaningfully for national development.
Tell me about yourself, where do you come from?
I am Thembi Grace Thadzi, a second born in a family of four. I come from Ntcheu. I am a born-again Christian and my relationship with Christ is priceless. I am a fourth year student at Share World Open University and I will be graduating in September. When I get some time alone, I love reading books. Right now I am reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C Maxwell. I also love watching TV and movies.Â I love grilled chambo, nsima and nkhwani wotendera (pumpkin leaves with groundnut sauce). I grew up with both parents, two sisters and my only brother. My parents, especially my mum, were very strict disciplinarians.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now
I see myself finishing my masterâ€™s degree and having my own family.Â I would also like to open up a girlâ€™s initiative academy, whose main objective will be to support and keep girls in school.