This month, we are pleased to bring you the remarkable leadership journey of our most recent past Board Chair, Alumni & Friend, Ms.Amanda Khozi Mukwashi. Amanda has relentlessly continued to challenge the odds and committed to African women’s leadership development on the continent and in the diaspora. I trust that you will draw inspiration from her story of determination and hope.
My AWLI and Board leadership experience at AMwA
I attended the AWLI of February 2002 which took place for African women in the diaspora in Birmingham, UK. The AWLI experience came at a time in my life when I was looking to break through back into the development sector. I moved to the UK in 1998 from Zambia where I started in 1992 as a legal assistant working in the Legal Division of the then Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA) which has now evolved into the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) where I was key in establishing and heading a Unit on Women in Business. In this role, I worked with private sector, businesses led by women (small and medium scale) as well as with Governments on policy issues to create more opportunities and conducive trade policy environment for women to operate in. During my time in Zambia, I also worked on the UNFPA fourth Country Support programme to Zambia on Gender, Population and Development leading the work on creating advocacy capacities at community level.
On reflection, I look back and believe that I was privileged to have had that level of exposure so early in my career. In particular, I later appreciated DrHawaSinare who was the Director of Legal at COMESA, a woman who worked very hard and was very principled in her approach to her work. From observing her, I learnt how to be true to your values in the face of challenges.
My move to the UK turned out to be a re-education programme that took me through very challenging moments as a professional, as a woman and as an African. For a while I lost sight of the confidence, self-esteem and self-worth that had been instilled in me from childhood. I guess this is something for another story! The 2002 AWLI was timely for me because I had started to question myself to look for my identity again. Perhaps one of the most impactful things to come out of the AWLI was seeing a number of black African women who had managed to succeed, to overcome the many obstacles and who were now on a path to inspiring other women.
I left the AWLI and seriously begun to plan and to pursue my dreams. I was reminded of the strength that came from within and of my faith, which had undergone major setbacks. I raised my head and looked forward and I have not stopped since. The only time I look back is to ensure that I too can help pull others who are behind.
I also made some lifelong friends from that AWLI, friends for whom I am and will be eternally grateful.
Her inspiration to continuously identify with and support AMwA through the years
If each one of us, can find it in themselves, to hold a few hands as we move towards success, then many more women and girls will be lifted out of poverty, challenges and moments of despair. The concept of transformational leadership that AMwA stands for….the idea that African women can and do contribute to the leadership of Africa, is one that appeals to me at a very deep and fundamental level and therefore my support for AMwA is founded on that. The organization does not and will not always get everything right, but the space that AMwA provides for African women to engage, to find themselves and to look up and ahead, is a space that was won under difficult circumstances and it is a space that we should guard jealously.
AMwA through the lens
As an alumnus who has passionately walked the AMwA journey over the years I envision AMwA’s position in spearheading African women’s leadership as key to the development and sustainability of Africa, African economic, social and cultural development, African businesses and Africa’s future. AMwA should continue to champion this flag!
A message for the African women’s movement and AMwA secretariat
The idea that there are African women out there, whose leadership values and practices are very much aligned, who walk the talk, appears to still be a 'phenomena' that surprises - why is that? It offends me greatly....that the default position appears to be a scarcity rather than an abundance.....let us bring out our stories of women's leadership that inspires and that is true even beyond the private space! Not only for ourselves but for the sake of our young ones, who see this inspiration in the home, only to have quashed in the 'real' world. When they look for us in the papers, in the media, in the public places, we are not as visible and yet we are there...ordinary women doing extraordinary things...transforming lives with determination and resilience. "Until the lioness learns to tell her story, the hunting stories will always glorify the hunter"
The message that I want to leave behind and that is something I want to continue flagging is that there is an immense amount of good practice in the leadership of African women and this needs to be accepted, acknowledged and exemplified. Indeed, it must become public knowledge and replace the stereotype that continuously suggests otherwise.
Gratitude to AMwA
AMwA has provided me with such great opportunities to learn and grow in my leadership, to meet sisters and develop great friendships. I take away the aha moments, the AMwA moments and I have matured as a leader from the difficult times. I am glad that the friendships have strengthened and AMwA still stands proudly and continues to seek a path that upholds African women’s leadership!
Amanda (third from right) with other Board Members