Mwayiwathu Mkwala is this year’s winner of the Blog4Dev competition having beaten 40 contestants locally.
“Having been pronounced as a winner from Malawi in the competition, I was very excited knowing that my ideas at some point will help develop our country. And this would just be the beginning of a long, networking journey with other young people across Africa in developing our continent. I find it to be an immense achievement. Having to learn from people from all corners of the continent will greatly improve my perspective towards development,” she says.
Mwayi revealed the competition also attracted 1 266 blog posts from 45 African countries.
According to the winner, this year’s topic was on how the youth can work together with their governments and civil society organisations (CSOs) in building a stronger post-pandemic social and economic system.
She adds that she joined the competition to be a part of World Bank (The World Bank in the Sub-Saharan Africa region hosts this competition yearly by giving out a topic of focus mission) to support the participation of young, talented Africans in development dialogue.
“After my entry made it to top three, I was interviewed to probe more on what I knew about the topic in question. The competition follows a lot of eligibility criteria, including the originality of your work which involves passing through the plagiarism test,” she says.
The 21-year-old adds that she likes to read situational analysis reports presented by various organisations and government.
This way, she keeps track of progress on developmental initiatives, how far we have come and what it will take to bridge the gaps towards achievement of our goals.
And the Blog4Dev award for 2021, she observes went to people who voiced out innovative ideas that could help bring positive change to various issues of development and challenges facing the contemporary world.
Mwayi says prizes include being invited to the World Bank’s headquarters in Washington DC for meetings and events; getting to be a member of Youth Transforming Africa family for networking and relating with other young Africans in development initiatives.
She believes networking is phenomenal because there is a lot to learn from other people with various skills and ideas to share in building this continent.
“The platform gives us means to voice out our innovative ideas and contribute towards development locally and globally. Taking part in writing activities such as blogging is a new experience for me and this competition was my first.
“I came across the advertisement for the competition in November 2020, on the World Bank Africa Twitter page and looking at the topic, I was instantly captured to voice out my ideas on various concerns that were brought about by the pandemic in Malawi and Africa as a whole,” says Mwayi.
But helping develop ideas for a better continent is not the only thing that drives the young woman.
She volunteers at a charitable organisation, Hearts Without Borders, co-founded a non-profit organisation, One Ripple and advocates for girls’ rights, an initiative that first started through Plan International Malawi.
Hearts without Borders feeds, clothes and empowers the less privileged with no boundaries.
She beams: “Volunteering with Hearts Without Borders helps me have a bigger picture of how social injustice is deep rooted in our society. Meeting the Ultra-poor and helping them with their needs is my ultimate passion. We donate every year in December to orphanages, child headed households and other marginalised populations. Every encounter sharpens my view on how poverty has taken its toll on the Malawian population.”
Funds for the donation are raised all year round through membership fees and other activities to reach a greater number of people during the festive season.
“This being a young people’s group with unique skills, impacts a lot on the goals of the organisation, during the give-out season. We also teach vocational skills to the targeted beneficiaries and plant trees exercises to ensure a greener, resilient recovery,” says Mwayi.
One Ripple helps retain and re-enroll girls in schools as a way of empowering them and improving their social wellbeing, especially in hard-to-reach areas.
On the Plan Malawi initiative, she advocated for girls rights in various instances.
“My first experience was in 2018 when I worked on an initiative called 18+ Sports League in Kasungu. It was aimed at ending child marriages, help the larger communities realise child rights and ensure their protection, especially for girls. I mentored girls during the commemoration of the International Day of The Girl Child,” she says.
Mwayiwathu adds that the initiative helped her realise how a large number of girls in the country face obstacles in accessing or continuing their education and how mentorship programmes go a long way in impacting girls’ child education.
“I figured involving myself in the area would contribute more towards improving education for the girls,” she adds.
And with the Covid-19 pandemic, Mwayi realised that achieving would face more setbacks.
And when her colleague presented the One Ripple idea, she took the chance to make access to education for young girls easy.
Mwayi was raised in Kasungu and has a Bachelors’ degree in Social Sciences (Social Work) from the Catholic University of Malawi in 2019.
She has worked for the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Evangelical Lutheran Development Services, Goal Malawi as well as National Bank of Malawi.
She looks for opportunities that keep her connected with developmental practitioners to learn from them and share more innovative ideas.
“I believe in a fair world where everyone has equal access to resources and is included in matters of society. My involvement in developmental work has been driven by the forces of bringing equality; a desire to close the gaps between the rich and the poor globally.
“I aspire to work with vulnerable populations at an international level and be able to inform policy that will greatly tackle inequality as it is what affects global development,” she says.
Her advice to women and young girls is; there is enough space at the table for everyone and that space requires all of us to fill in by doing greater good.
“We can turn our everyday obstacles to lifetime opportunities. If presented with an opportunity, grab it. Looking down upon yourself will just drag you down and you will never realise the great things you are capable of. Take risks, find out your potential and go for it, we were all meant to be great,” she says.