Njalawa’s passion for writing
There are great writers, writers whose stories are a must read, writers whose stories have been read and read several times but hear this, everyone is a writer for one word on a page makes you a writer. Everyone is a writer. You are a writer and I am a writer.
All over the world, in every culture, human beings have carved into stone, written on parchment, birch bark, or scraps of paper, and sealed into letters – their words.
Pat Schneider who has been described as the wisest teacher of writing in his book titled Writing alone and with others, observes that those who do not write stories and poems on solid surfaces tell them, sing them and in so doing, write them on the air.
This is what brings us in contact with a US non-profit organisation Voice Flame that believes in writing as a perfect tool to change the world. The organisation believes writing is a platform for people especially girls and women to tell their stories to the world.
It is through this organisation which has trained several women that Chikondi Lunguzi Njawala got shaped to where she is today.
Chikondi through the sponsorship from Voice Flame leaves the country on June 9 for USA where she will be engaged in writing sessions with girls, women and boys in several cities which include New York, Amherst, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., Purcellville, VA, Southern Pines, North Carolina, Portland, Oregon, Berkeley, California, and Sacramento. She will be in US until next month.
Voice Flame Founder Mary Tuchscherer says the purpose of the writing sessions which Chikondi will be engaged in, are to connect women across cultures and differences as well as provide further training in the Amherst Writers and Artists method and share stories.
According to Tuchscherer, Chikondi is leading groups with young girls in Lilongwe and is doing great work – building confidence, creating a love for reading and writing at an early age and mentoring. “She is a remarkable woman with excellent leadership skills,” says Tuchscherer.
Chikondi says it never occurred to her that writing could be more exciting, fun and fulfilling until she met Voice Flame team some time last year. She says she immediately embarked on a writing journey, which she did not hesitate to accept when she was asked to participate.
“Tuchscherer, Marty and Patricia were the women who came to Malawi to train me and teachers from Jacaranda School of Orphans using the Amherst Writers and Artist method. These awesome women shared with me the need to empower women and girls through writing,” she explains.
Chikondi observes that writing can afford women and girls to have a voice in the society, and that through it confidence and opportunities would be enhanced.
She quotes Schneider in her book Writing Alone and With Others that giving guide on writing that it beats the block and banishes fear the guide that will beat the block, banish fear and help create lasting work.
“I have indeed seen it with my girls, from shyness to happiness and confidence; they have made me believe in myself through the bond and friendship that we have created. One thing I enjoy with the girls is that, we sit and we are free to make mistakes and correct each other with no criticism at all,” says Chikondi. She adds: “I started working with the girls from Area 49 Gulliver in Lilongwe just around my neighborhood at my pre-school El-Shaddai on Saturdays once a month to twice a month depending on the girls’ availability and my own,” says the female writer.
Chikondi says through the sessions, she sits with the girls, dances with them including performing their favourite and best song: “I am a Writer! I have a Voice! It is Unique, I Write with it!” She says the girls decided to come up with a name for their club naming it Super Staz Writing Club and that she later went on to form another group in Mtandire Village in Lilongwe.
“We now decided to have them at the school. So far the Mtandire group is doing great and they are still working on the best name for their group,” says Chikondi. Her passion for writing and empowering fellow women has seen her going on with the writing sessions such that she is now interested in forming more groups in girls’ secondary schools.
“I am happy with the tour of USA. I will not be in one place but will write with others across America. I would like to thank Voice Flame for believing in me and I thank God for this opportunity,” she said.
According to Chikondi, in Malawi, the majority of women and girls have not been exposed to a writing culture, some simply because they never thought about it, so they don’t understand the benefits of it.
She says others have been undermined for a very long time, as evidenced by their failure to integrate within their society, lack of selfconfidence, fear to express themselves due to issues of gender inequality and lack of education and exposure. “Writing is one of the many tools that could reverse this sad state of affairs women and young girls are facing,” says Chikondi. A holder of a Master of Science Degree in Marketing obtained from
University of Glamorgan. Chikondi also holds a post graduate Diploma in Marketing awarded by the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
“I am passionate about working with young girls and women. I work hard in this writing project and I have been privileged to facilitate a number of workshops involving girls and women in order to instill selfconfidence and build their capacity,” she says.
Apart from Voice Flame assignments, Chikondi is also involved in volunteer work, where she coordinates programmes for Dedza East Trust. Tuchscherer says Voice Flame is committed to literacy development as a way to empower women and eliminate discrimination and that it will continue to lead in writing workshops in the US and Malawi.
The organisation also publishes the works of disenfranchised women and girls who would otherwise have no opportunity to be heard. The organisation currently also works with Jacaranda School for Orphans and has so far trained 23 teachers who are fully certified in the writing project and have started multiple writing clubs.
“The idea is for people to tell their stories for we believe everyone has a unique story to tell. Through writing, many women have expressed a lot of emotional healing, have told the stories they were holding like abuse and loss of family members,” says Tuchscherer, who has been in the country several times. Voice Flame has published a book titled Ndakuwona whose subtitle is I See You with my heart. This is an anthology of Malawian women and US women. Tuchscherer says she found herself in Malawi in 2007 and learned that less than a handful of women had ever been published.
She became acutely aware of the depth of silence that was being endured. Her heart split open, and she resolved to bring this simple, yet deeply transformative work to Malawian girls and women to provide the tools for literacy development, and to help them recognise that their voice matters.
Tuchscherer says from the beginning, Voice Flame saw beyond the poverty and hardship that one typically associates with women in an undeveloped country.
“We saw the light in the eyes of Malawian women and knew they were filled with hopes, dreams and untapped potential. All they needed was the opportunity to express themselves and develop creative solutions to change their circumstances,” she says.
In response, VoiceFlames implemented its vision and mission differently and that based on some of the statistics, the organisation saw an opportunity to make a difference in Malawi through creative writing workshops, teacher trainings, publications and cross-cultural journeys.
Tuchscherer says they use a simple way of training using the Amherst Writers and Artists (Awa) method so that the trained people can become workshop and classroom leaders who affirm that every writer has a unique voice.
She says the Awa Method, as created by Schneider, is founded on five essential affirmations and they are that everyone has a strong, unique voice, everyone is born with creative genius, writing belongs to all people, teaching can be done without damage to a writer’s original voice or self-esteem and that a writer is someone who writes.
So through this training has come Chikondi, who has now found herself travelling to US to tell stories.
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