Upile Chisala, 21, dreams of founding a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that caters for the needs of mothers and children in rural areas.
After winning the Honours College Scholarship for International Research in 2014, she researched on maternal healthcare at Likoma Island.
“This research involved documenting the perspectives of mothers and healthcare workers. My dream is to continue conducting women’s rights research in Malawi,” says Chisala.
She has also volunteered for different places such as Open Arms Orphanage. In 2013, she became a women’s empowerment volunteer at the Cambodian Centre for the Protection of Children’s Rights with an organisation known as UBelong.
There she worked as a mentor and an English teacher for young girls who were victims of sex and labour trade.
More recently, the young sociologist was an immigration intern at the International Rescue Committee, where she aided refugees to gain more rights by adjusting their status to become United States citizens.
She has completed over 200 citizenship applications on behalf of former refugees since September 2015.
“I am passionate about immigrant rights and in Las Cruces, I interned for Southwest Asylum and Immigration Institute as a legal research intern. This organisation offered legal services to asylum seekers that were held in detention in El Paso, Texas after crossing the United States-Mexico border.
“I assisted in collecting country information as well as case information for every client that could help the organisation’s lawyer in the asylum case,” she says.
In addition, she is the author of a book titled Soft Magic; a collection of poems that celebrate blackness, womanhood, manhood, the self and explores matters of the home, healing and survival.
Upile grew up in Zomba, where her father was a professor and her mother an accountant at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima).
“My family has always been supportive of my dreams and taught me the importance of education and charity. I was blessed with parents and siblings that are constantly in my corner and allow me to express myself creatively,” she says.
Chisala graduated valedictorian from Mount Sinai International High School in Lilongwe. In 2011, she moved to New Mexico where she attended New Mexico State University (NMSU).
She graduated with a High Honours Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a supplementary major in law and society and minors in women’s studies and contemporary social studies.
She still relishes the dream of pursuing a Master of Science in African Studies at the University of Oxford where she has been offered a place, and then a PhD in development studies. n