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.


Hundreds of people broke down airport gates so they could see their beloved leader returning home for the first time since 2014. Click To Tweet

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.

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.

To be an effective leader, one must have the knowledge, savvy, and resources to influence the society Click To Tweet

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.

To be a true groundbreaker, one must fall in love with the people one serves, and the people must reciprocate this love, Click To Tweet

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.

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Nigeria’s President falls our hand

In one fell swoop, President Buhari lived up to every single stereotype that exists about Nigerian men Click To Tweet

Earlier today, the BBC released an interview with Nigeria’s First Lady Aisha Buhari. In the interview, Aisha Buhari “warned President Buhari that she may not back him at the next election unless he shakes up his government. She was concerned that his government had been hijacked by only a “few people”, who were behind presidential appointments.”

Whilst many may debate the merits or demerits of a President’s wife so publicly denouncing her husband’s presidency, what is simply not up for debate is the appropriateness of President Buhari’s response.


For those of you who didn’t hear what he said lemme write it out for you in black and white. I’ll even centre it so it’s real clear.

“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen, my living room and the other room.”


And in one fell swoop, President Buhari lived up to every single stereotype that exists about northern, Muslim, Nigerian men and African men more broadly. Owa Oga.. you for try small nahh … More generally, please stop making us look crazy to the white people.

The President of Africa’s second largest economy, Africa’s most populous country and, arguably, one of Africa’s most powerful countries just said on live TV that women are here to cook, lounge and have sex.

I’ll let you digest that for one moment because no people … THIS IS NOT A DRILL. He really said it and we never esperrerit.


What makes his remarks even more shocking is that he said them whilst with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and arguably one of the most powerful women (in fact people) in the world …. only 3 days after the International Day of the Girl Child which is meant to encourage families to educate their female children and allow them to live their best lives.

Baba… you didn’t try for us at all.


The look on Angie’s face tho … she really never esperrerit


President Buhari hasn’t really been the women’s president. Under his administration the % of women in ministerial positions has gone from 31% to 16%. In fact, when we look at President Buhari’s inner circle, it seems to be seriously lacking in the estrogen department.

Nigeria's President Buhari hasn’t really been the women’s president Click To Tweet

Given this context, the excuse that his comments were simply a “joke” is a little difficult for us to swallow…. That and the fact that he’s the President of a country, not a comedian.

Obviously GIFAt She Leads Africa, one of the challenges we see a lot of female professionals and entrepreneurs facing is a lack of self-confidence. Many women simply do not have the confidence to believe that they can be leaders.

And yet, how will they feel confident when their President, their leader and their Commander-in-Chief, implies that their place is in the kitchen, living room and the bedroom?

At one of our SheHive workshops in Abuja, we had a young woman give a teary testimonial about how her family discouraged her entrepreneurial dreams. They made her feel like she had no place outside of the home and she struggled to balance her hunger to build a thriving business with the weight of tradition and familial pressures. I’m proud and happy to say that she left our training programs energized and ready to forge ahead with her plans to open a spa. A spa which, mind you, will create jobs in an economy struggling under the burden of high unemployment.

Nigerian women struggle between wanting to build businesses and the weight of tradition Click To Tweet

On days like this I feel happy.

And then there are days like today where I realise how far we have to go.

President Buhari’s remarks are a stark reminder that for us, the women of Africa, our battle to prove our competency, our relevance and our ability to meaningfully contribute to the development of this continent is only just beginning.

In any case President Buhari –I can guarantee you that we are very much up to the challenge.


SLA Team - Nigeria's President falls our hand

PS. We want to give a special shout out to all our male #SwagAssists who’ve come to our defence. Your tweets and social media support were the business. #SwagAssist