Her Excellency Mrs. Monica Chakwera is the wife of Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, the sixth President of the Republic of Malawi. Her forty-three years of marriage to the Head of State is blessed with four children and twelve grandchildren. She hails from Mwazisi in Rumphi District, Northern Malawi.
Mrs. Chakwera is a Chartered Accountant and a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). She is also a qualified Social Worker with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work Degree from the University of the North, in South Africa.
Prior to qualifying as a Chartered Accountant and as a qualified Social Worker, Mrs. Chakwera pursued her Studies with the University of Malawi, The Polytechnic, where she was awarded a Diploma in Business Studies.
In a career spanning four decades, until her retirement in 2017, Mrs. Chakwera worked with several international organisations such as the British Council, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Plan International, the Irish Embassy as well as the accounting firm, Deloitte.
For years, Her Excellency Mrs. Chakwera has been working on supporting the development of the village girl and street children, two causes she is passionate about. Her passion for the village girl is inspired by her own roots in the village where she was raised alongside her seven siblings. She faced a lot of struggles in paying school fees for her secondary school Education. Save the Children came to her rescue in the final years of secondary school to enable her finish her studies. It is this experience that has made her an advocate of women and girl-child education and as such she founded Shaping Our Future Foundation in August 2020. Shaping Our Future Foundation is registered with relevant Government entities in Malawi i.e. the Registrar General, Non-Governmental Organisations Board, Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi and the Malawi Revenue Authority. The Foundation has an independent Board of Directors with backgrounds in Finance, Legal, Development Management, Communications, among others.
Among its work, the Foundation aims to expand educational opportunities for all, including society’s most vulnerable; to promote all-encompassing health and wellness amongst young people; to economically empower society’s disadvantaged groups including the youth; and to promote sustainable agricultural practices (Climate SMART Agriculture).
The Foundation has set an ambitious target to increase enrollment, retention and completion of secondary school education of 5,000 village girls by 31st December, 2026 in a country where 42% of girls below the age of 18 and 9% of girls below the age of 15 get married mainly due to harmful social cultural norms and practices. Her Excellency Madam Monica Chakwera believes that, keeping girls in school is a vehicle towards enhancing women empowerment, women’s economic empowerment and ending violence against women and girls. In her own words, “a well-educated population leads to a well-educated and productive workforce, especially in today’s ‘knowledge-oriented’ economies”.
Her Excellency Madame Chakwera is Ambassador and Patron for several organisations dealing with issues that are very close to her heart including:
- Patron for Malawi Girl Guides Association
- Ambassador for Menstrual Health in Malawi and across Africa with Days for Girls International
- Ambassador for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls with Oxfam
- Ambassador for Ending Child Marriages with Plan International Malawi
- Patron for the Association of the Persons with Albinism
- Eminent Ambassador for Early Childhood Development with the Early Childhood Development Coalition in Malawi
- Merck More Than Ambassador for Malawi with the Merck Foundation.
Shaping Our Future Foundation -SOFF is a Malawian Non-Governmental Organisation registered in August 2020 with all relevant government entities.
Promoting the holistic development of the rural (village) girl and street child.
A holistic citizen empowered for social impact through emancipation from a difficult childhood in the village or on the streets.
Compassion, Partnership, Intergrity, Impact and Dignity.
- To expand educational opportunities for all including society’s mostvulnerable
- To promote all-encompassing health and wellness amongst young
- To economically empower society’s disadvantaged groups including the
- To promote sustainable agricultural
We have done needs assessment in selected districts of Rumphi, Mzimba, Mchinji, Lilongwe, Salima, Dedza, Thyolo and Mangochi.
These districts were selected based on the magnitude of girl child vulnerability compared to their male counterparts among others.
Vulnerability of the girl child especially in the rural communities and peri-urban areas of Malawi needs immediate attention by all members of the society including other development partners.
- High rates of child marriages and teenage pregnancies leading tocomplications such as fistula.
- 425 of girls get married before they are 18 years of age and 9% of them getmarried by age 15, many due to initiation rituals – some of which can be harmful (UNICEF, 2019)
- Increased gender inequalities and expose many newborns and infants tomultiple risks, including stunting (37%)
- To increase the enrollment, retention and completion of secondary school education of 5,000 (rural) village girls by 31st December 2026.
Shaping Our Future Foundation SOFF has so far given over 309 scholarships to secondary schools going girls and boys across the country. Since our focus has been on secondary school students our foundation has received so many requests for sponsorships for University students which we have channeled to other organisations who are assisting these students directly and not through SOFF. Our desire is to see to it that girls and yes boys don’t fail to go to school because of school fees.
So far these are the numbers that we have given scholarships to students across the country in 2021.
First transfer cover of 161 students 154 girls and 7 boys
Last scholarship covered Street connected kids numbering 148. 80 girls and 68 boys. The grand total of these scholarships has been 309. 234 girls and 75 boys.
Shaping Our future Foundation is championing promoting girl education in the country using capable women as mentors. The programme was launched in partnership with NBS Bank, NICO Group and Eris Properties. The launch took place in Phalombe at Phalombe Secondary School. Our mentors are women that have high positions in their organisations and they are going to mentor these young ladies for 2 years but our plan is to get more mentors. Our mentees are from schools across the country.
These girls will be mentored into a field they will desire to be when they finish school.
The Minister of Education Hon Agnes Nyalonje represented Her Excellency, Madame Monica Chakwera at the function. Speaking at the function the Minister said the initiative will help eliminate barriers that girls face in pursuit of their education. She said, educating girls is central to achievement of our national vision, the Malawi 2063 which seeks to make the country an inclusively wealthy and industrialized upper-middle income country by 2063.
“it is only through education that the girl child will be empowered to make sound decisions about her future”.
Her Excellency, Madame Monica Chakwera, The First Lady of The Republic of Malawi is the Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” since 2020. With Merck Foundation, we are implementing a number of programmes which Merck is sponsoring.
- Empowering Bena. We are empowering women that cannot conceive bygiving them capital injection so that they can stand on their own. Some of these mothers are taking care of not their biological
- Scholarship for secondary school going girls: in partnership with the Ministryof Education provides to 40 best performing girls in secondary schools in Malawi under “Educating Linda Programme” we also received 30,000 copies of the three storybooks produced in partnership with Merck Foundation to raise awareness about Covid-19, support girl child education, break the infertility stigma and emphasize family values of love and respect.
- Tertially Education sponsorship: for both physical and online courses, MerckFoundation has provided 19 scholarships to Malawian Doctors for one year online diploma in medical specialties such as Acute Medicine, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine and diabetes among others. We have 9 doctors and nurses enrolled for oncology training and 3 doctors enrolled for fertility training in India as soon as the covid 19 diminished. These specialties are of great significance for Malawi as they will contribute towards establishing a skilled team of doctors to improve access to quality and equitable cancer care, and establish a strong platform to assist infertile couples in the
SOFF is empowering women in the rural areas in the following
- VillageSavings and Loans VSL
- We have also built a Maize mill for the women in Nathenje.We are targeting 8 districts which are in our pilot
North Rumphi and Mzimba
Central Salima Lilongwe Dedza Mchinji South Thyolo Mangochi
There are a number of families that will be assisted in each district.
With support from the Feed the Hungry, we had food distribution activities in the following schools for the visually impaired students. Malingunde School for The Blind in Lilongwe, Chilanga School for the Blind in Kasungu, Nkhotakota, Salima Nkope School for the Blind and Msiyaludzu in Ntcheu, we distributed over 400 boxes of food reaching 267 students.
After seeing the plight in CDSS across the country, SOFF is looking forward to building girls hostels to give girls decent accommodation, protecting the girls from would be perpetrators of sexual violence to the girls and give them a heart to work hard and concentrate on school work than any other that distrcts.
If funding is found we will start with Kalowo CDSS in Rumphi District where research was already done. This project we will work hand in hand with the Ministry of Education who also gave us the plans or designs for the girls hostels. We would like to see girls having decent environment resulting in doing well in class.
Her Excellency Madame Monica Chakwera First Lady of the Republic of Malawi made a symbolic presentation of the Menstrual kits to students of Lilongwe Girls Secondary School on behalf of all the girls in Malawi. Her Excellency is the International Ambassador on Menstrual Hygiene.
SOFF is working hand in hand with Days for Girls DFG in this initiative and we would like to reach out to over 5000 students who cannot afford to buy on their own. These menstrual kits since they are reusable girls and women can have them for 3 years plus.
Menstrual health is one issue that needs to be tackled head on as many girls when this time has come they fail to go to school making them miss so much that others have learnt. As SOFF we do not want to see young girls fail to attend school because their time of the month has come. We are working in partnership with UNFPA and Plan International in making sure that this is achieved.
Since this is an issue that is cross sectional, we have joined hands with Ministry of Education, Ministry of Gender Community Development and Social welfare and Ministry of Health. We are calling for other partners to join this noble cause so that our girls stay in school and not miss classes.
We launched the Menstrual Hygiene programme in Mangochi at T/A Nankumbas area where the Minister of Gender was the guest of honour representing the First Lady.
We are also targeting at building wash rooms for girls in schools across the country.
- UN WOMEN
- DaysFor Girls DFG
- Feedthe Hungry
With the partnership with Feed The Hungry, we have so far given out 400 boxes for food parcels to Schools of the Blind in the country.
As an ambassador for ending child marriages, she spoke to the World leaders who recently gathered for the United General Assembly #UNGA that child marriages should end enough is enough. World Vision Malawi facilitated this. The link for the recording is……
Recently brought together organizations that are dealing with Girl Child Education to education from across the country to form an Education Think Tank on what should be done to reach out to the girl child and have her educated and also get every support she needs. These included OXFARM, Plan International and others.
Plan International Malawi came up with a booklet and a documentary of Her Excellency life story which was launched this year at Kamuzu Palace. The booklet is to be used in schools and also be found in libraries with an aim of encouraging a girl child that, it doesn’t matter where you are coming from you have potential of getting what you want and becoming what you want to become.
She recently took over from the First Lady of Mozambique Madame Nyusi as the Chairperson of SADC First Ladies upo His Excellency assuming the Chairmanship during the SADC summit.
First Lady Projects
- First Lady Monica Chakwera in skills empowerment project
- First Lady to Launch Shaping Our Future Foundation
- Madam Monica Chakwera in women empowerment drive as 14 graduates in tailoring
- First Lady Launches Booklet on Girl Child Education
- First Lady Madame Monica Chakwera donates 30,000 storybooks through Merck Foundation