When in 2006 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first female leader in Africa, as the President of Liberia, so many were quick to say it would take a century for such a feat to happen again in the continent. They were excessively wrong as there was a Joyce Banda in far away Malawi working and waiting for time.
In 2012 the time came and the southern African country of Malawi welcomed its first female president; Joyce Banda as they bade farewell to Bingu Wa Mutharika who died in office.
Joyce Banda: Life before Politics
Joyce Banda was born Joyce Hilda Ntila in 1950 in the Zomba district of Malawi (then Nyasaland). In the family of five children, she was born the eldest.
It was after her first marriage to Roy Kachale that her knack for activism first kicked in. This was influenced by the abuse she experienced in the marriage. In the 1970s, Joyce was living with her husband, Kachale, and three children in Nairobi Kenya.
In 1981, her marriage with Kachale ended and she left back to Malawi with her children. She is presently married to Richard Banda, a former chief justice of Malawi and Swaziland.
Throughout the 1980s Banda got involve in business. It was in that period that she started the National Association of Business Women. The aim of the association was to assist women with capital for starting small businesses. Between the same period and 1995, she established various businesses including Ndakani Garments, Akajuwe Enterprises, and Kalingidza Bakery.
Banda got her education from Columbus University where she got BA degree in Early Child Education; Atlantic International University where she got a BSc. In Gender Studies; and she Got a Cambridge School Certificate among others.
Banda’s activities as a business woman and an advocate has won her much respect and prepared her for life as a politician, which she became in the late 1990s.
In 1999 she won a parliamentary seat to represent the constituency of Zomba Molasa. As a member of the parliament, she got the opportunity to serve the government of Bakili Muluzi as minister of Gender and Community Services. The appointment was influenced by the record she had established as an activist for women and children.
Joyce Banda contested another election in 2004 and won back to the parliament. She was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2006 by the government of Mutharika.
Under the Democratic Progressive Party, Banda contested for the vice presidency alongside Mutharika who ran for the number 1 seat in 2009. With victory at the polls, Banda became the country’s first female vice president.
Her major crisis in politics came in late 2010 when the president expelled her and the second vice president of the country, Khumbo Kachali from the party. The president also attempted to take her out of office to fix in his brother whom he wanted to succeed him. Mutharika’s efforts met the walls as the constitution backed the woman that would later be synonymous to the face of Malawi. Her expulsion from the DPP led Banda to form the People’s Party in 2011.
President Mutharika died on April 5th 2012. His death was kept hidden from the Malawi news environment. While the constitution provided for the Vice president to take over, the cabinet tried to get the court to prevent Banda’s swearing in.
With the help of the country’s army general, Henry Odillo who gave her full protection, Banda was sworn in on the 7th of April 2012 as the fourth president of Malawi. This made her and Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the only female presidents in Africa.
Joyce Banda ruled Malawi from 2014 to 2014.
Awards and Recognition
Even before life as a politician, Joyce Banda had already started winning awards. She was awarded Woman of the year, Malawi in 1997 and 1998. Also, in 1997 she was awarded Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger by the Hunger project. Other awards include:
- International Award for Entrepreneurship Development (1997)
- 100 Heroines Award (1998)
- Certificate of Honors, Federation of World Peace and Love, Republic of China (2001)
- Women of Substance Award (2010)
- Person of the year by Nyasa Times Multimedia (2010)
- Martin Luther Drum major Award (2012)
- Legends Award for Leadership (2012)
Joyce has as well been recognized by different African and international magazines such as Forbes magazine
Because of her contributions, Joyce Banda news both before and during her politics have highlighted her as someone who is greatly accepted by women in the country. This however, does not suggest that she has no male acceptance.