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After 4 years away – Former President of Malawi Joyce Banda returns home

Dr. Joyce Banda was the only President in the history of her country to address issues of corruption — now she’s paying the price. She was the first female President of Malawi, and the second female head of state from the continent of Africa, She was a victim of smear campaigns, media attacks, false accusations, arrest warrants, and even assassination attempts by the current administration. They tried to keep her away from her beloved people of Malawi and block the work she’s doing to advocate for the rights of women and girls across Africa. On April 28, 2018, however, she said enough is enough and decided to take the risk and return home. Liz Grossman narrates to us all about Joyce Banda’s historic return to Malawi, and how she continues with her humanitarian work for the people of Malawi through her foundation.   [bctt tweet=” Hundreds of people broke down airport gates so they could see their beloved leader returning home for the first time since 2014.” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”] I was fortunate enough to accompany her on this historic trip home. Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda is one of my major clients, a mentor, and personal hero. She and I very quickly bonded when I began working with her a year and a half ago during her fellowship at the Wilson Center in Washington DC. I, on the other hand, continue to work with her and the Joyce Banda Foundation on communications and business development strategy. To be a true groundbreaker, a person who shakes the earth to its core, one must fall in love with the people one serves, and the people must reciprocate this love, as leaders must truly be a love affair. On April 28, 2018, in the country of Malawi, I witnessed this firsthand alongside Dr. Joyce Banda, the nation’s first female President, as she returned home for the first time in four years. I have only been working with Dr. Banda for a year, but in this period I have borne witness to the many facets of her character.  The scholar working on high-level research about girls education and women’s leadership, the orator, the mentor, the entrepreneur, the policymaker, and the wife, mother, and grandmother. I have listened to her inspire crowds of thousands at conferences and lectures all across Africa and the United States, telling her story of being a rural woman from Malawi and how her experiences shaped her passions and ability to lead with love, always putting her people at the forefront. This love for her people has driven Dr. Banda on her leadership journey, starting from the National Association of Business Women she founded, to build a foundation over twenty years old serving over 1.3 million Malawians.   But above all else, she has always been a mother to her family, community, and country, doing everything in her power to protect and nurture her people. [bctt tweet=”To be an effective leader, one must have the knowledge, savvy, and resources to influence the society” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”] Dr. Banda cannot stand to see leaders pilfering state resources and leaving the population in ruins. I have had trouble understanding why this woman, who prefers to spend her personal resources to provide education and health service to the ultra poor, is under such scrutiny at home. But what I began to see is that not all leaders embrace her philosophy of leading with love, and politics can be used to intimidate those who wish to level the playing field for the underrepresented. Dr. Banda has never let fear guide her, so after spending 4 years working abroad after her Presidency and allowing the current President to govern as he wishes, returned home.  She was ready to sit in her own living room, visit her family, friends, church, and community, and get back to working with her people. [bctt tweet=”To be a true groundbreaker, one must fall in love with the people one serves, and the people must reciprocate this love, ” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”] Despite warnings from world leaders that she should protect herself and remain outside Malawi, her love and commitment to Malawi pushed her to take the risk and returned home to her village of Domasi. It was upon her return that I fully understood the privilege and honor I have to be working with such an icon. The second we got off the plane, hundreds of people literally broke down airport gates so they could see their beloved leader returning home for the first time since 2014. Women, decked out head to toe in her party color of orange, were crying and dancing in the streets, welcoming her with songs at every junction on the road from Blantyre to Domasi. I could see the people missed their “Amayi,” the word for mother in the local language, and were overjoyed to see her back home. Simply, her presence inspired hope in the nation, which has been suffering from a lack of electricity, health services and education, just a few of the major grievances by the population of one of the world’s poorest countries.   As a private citizen, Joyce Banda, through her foundation, operates 35 orphan care centers, which feed over 15,000 vulnerable children a day. She runs one of two free secondary schools in Malawi. She has adopted a social enterprise model for the foundation for the past thirteen years, using the profits from the world-class Joyce Banda Foundation private school in Blantyre to run these services while also inculcating values of tolerance and service to the international student body. No matter what arguments her adversaries may use against her, she has changed the lives of millions of people, accomplishments are not to be undervalued. After seeing her at home, my conviction is solidified that she is a truly one-of-a-kind woman, an icon who must be celebrated, protected and honored. It is my wish that the rest of the world will be able to see the importance of leading with love, and supporting those who do.  If