Tiwale, Empowering Malawian Women

31st December 2016 BY checkoutafrica

I recently had a chat with a 22-year-old Malawian girl named Ellen Chilemba who is the Founder and Director of Tiwale Community Based Organization.

Ellen’s journey through life has been fascinating, and I discovered her while sifting through Twitter as I do. After asking her a few questions, I immediately knew I wanted to do a write up on her. Therefore, without further ado, read the narration of her story in her words, and let me know what you think.

She starts by, “When I was 16 years old, I received a scholarship to study at the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa. ALA was transformational. For the first time in my life, I learned my history. My education was in the ‘greatness’ of the British Empire. Rather, the greatness of my continent, my people. We studied empires such as Axum and Timbuktu, quoted Stephen Bantu Biko and worshiped Wangari Maathai. At ALA, I completed a Diploma in Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and African Studies. Inspiring me to take a year off and launch Tiwale at 18 years old.”

I was astonished by how someone at the little age of 16 years old already knew her path, and that was one destined and deeply rooted in African history and the power and knowledge that it has for today.


I asked Ellen to continue her narration as I appreciated every word she spoke, and she moved on saying, “Tiwale means, ‘let us shine or glow’ in Chichewa, that is a Malawian language. Tiwale is a youth-led community-based organization empowering Malawian women through economic and education opportunities. To date, Tiwale has trained 150 women in business education programs, taught 66 women invocation skills programs and enabled 40 women to start successful businesses through micro-loans. Through my efforts with Tiwale, I was on the Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30. I am an Ashoka Future Forward Winner, a Commonwealth Youth Awardee for Excellence in Development Work, a Powell Emerging Leader Awardee, a Grinspoon Entrepreneur and one of We Are Family Foundation’s Global Leaders.”

Tiwale Founder

Adding on, “With this experience, I also lead workshops on Women and Girl’s Rights organizing. I am a facilitator at the Global Changemakers annual youth summit, a moderator at We Are Family Foundation’s annual summit, and a guest speaker and panelist at three universities and fourteen conferences including United Nations General Assembly. This year in April, I presented the We Are Family Foundation Humanitarian Award to Bono of U2 and the One Campaign. Upon hearing about Tiwale, Bono awarded the award back to her.”

Ellen & Bono

It was incredible for me to be chatting with someone with so many accolades under her belt at such a tender age, and that naturally made me curious to find out what career path she wishes to pursue after her studies in the U.S.

Noting that this sense of freedom and being compelled to do as she pleases in ways that feed her, is also an inspiration from the late Grace Jones’ quote, “Do what you feel, when you feel like it, if you feel like it.”

With no hesitation, Ellen ended off by stating, “My career path continues to evolve. The dream is to be self-employed and involved in sustainable business. My business interests encompass fashion, art, music, and travel. In my studies, I have switched from focusing on studio art to French to environmental studies to electronic music to economics.  All subjects have fed my interests. I choose economics only for Marxian economics. Marxian economics allows me to paint my ideal society centered on Ubuntu- the world that strives for equality through equally cherishing all identities, and skill sets that every being can bring to the table.”