Friday, 13 June 2014

Don't Give Up Just Yet!

Giving up, it is that word that we often use sometimes loosely but when you really do give up.. that's it. That is the end of hope, faith, perseverance, courage, hard work, dreams, future and you can add on to the list.

Giving up is a choice, perseverance is a choice, hope is a choice and faith is a choice. Many are the times that I had tried all I could, did my best to get things right, but it just did not seem to work. When I was on the verge of giving up, then something came up, that just uplifted my spirit and my strength was restored and I fought the battle. 

What am I trying to say here, sometimes we give up because we have lost all hope, sometimes we give up because we think we can not do it, sometimes we give up because of peer pressure. But there is always someone or something that we encounter in our lives that will bring us back and uplift our spirit. So let us not give up. We can fall many times but as long as we try our best to stand up again we will remain on the ground. It may not be easy to stand up again but if you believe that you can stand up again, then YES you CAN. 

Standing up even when you have nothing to hold on to, believing when you see no way out, trusting when you have no reason to trust and believing even when you can not see, that is hope. And that is what keeps us going everyday, we hope to wake up and accomplish everything we have scheduled for the day, even if we don't know what the day holds for us. We buy tickets for concerts 6 months in advance because we believe we will still be alive and be able to go to that concert then. So if we can think like this at times, why should we give up when times are hard?

 If you are passing through a tough and challenging time, don't give up, look back at your exploits, the times you conquered your challenges, the time you made it when you thought you wouldn't, the time you survived when you thought this is it, the time you excelled when you thought you were a complete failure. It is these conquests in our lives, these testimonies, that give us hope, strength and a reason not to give up just yet!

So go on, encourage your friend, your loved one, that little girl, that woman who may be at the verge of giving up when help is just around the corner. 
All things are possible if you believe.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

A Broken Girl

Looking at event that unfolded the past months with the abduction of girls from school in Nigeria, it kept bouncing back in my thoughts, the girls, their families, their future, the future of the girl child.

We have seen families trying to find their children, trying to find answers. Governments trying to find the girls and as for the girls themselves we don't know where they are, their state of mind, and what they are going through. But one thing we know for sure their lives will never be the same again. 

Every child, male or female has the right to education, a right to achieve their dreams and goals, but many are the events that have taken place that have  infringed on this right for both boys and girls. Forced marriages, cultural views regarding who is worth the education, poverty, security and so on.

So are we making any progress at all in helping the girl child? With the current events in Nigeria and around the world, I see parents keeping their girls at home to protect them, I see girls being afraid to go back to school, I see challenges that we need to tackle. 

But what can we do to help? How can we help our girls get back to school? How can we help our girls to feel secure in school? How can we help the parents to give their girls an education in the midst of all these challenges?

This is food for thought, as the saying goes 'You educate a woman, you educate a nation'.
Let us invest in the future of our children, let us pray for the girls of Chibok, let us pray for our girls.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Commiting To Your Goals

Commitment, this is a word that carries a lot of weight, its synonyms include dedication, devotion, allegiance, loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity, bond,responsibility, obligation, duty and the list goes on.

Are you committed to your goals?
In order to achieve something, be it education, fame, success, goals, one needs commitment.
Commitment does not take a day it may take weeks, months, years. One has to be dedicated, devoted, responsible and most of all it is an act of duty. For those goals that you set out to do, commit to them.

Never give up, never give in, always listen, and focus on your goals. In listening and humility you learn more and you can get further. Be willing to learn, never underestimate the people around you, each one of them has something special for you, and it is up to you to identify why you had to encounter this person, and what qualities does this individual have that can help advance your goals.

In my curiosity, each and everyday in every situation I find myself in, I try to find what is the lesson in it, and each and every day I move closer to my goal.
Today, look back how far you have come, what challenges you encountered and what you have achieved, look at your situation and find out, what you can learn from it as you move towards your goal.
Women are naturally strong, resilient and can withstand alot more that you can imagine. So my girls out there, hold on to your goals and stay committed.

Monday, 21 April 2014


Have you ever found yourself buried in self pity, feeling like you are not worth anything, you are a no body and you feel like no one cares anymore? Have you ever had your friend, teacher, father, mother, sister, brother, child, husband, wife, boss, strip you of all your self confidence and self worth by their actions, demeaning words, and so on?
I am sure most of you reading this article today are familiar with what I am talking about today. Where you are in class and the teacher always puts down any contribution you give, where you are always laughed at and made fun of for no reason. When friends gang up against you because they think you are different and you don’t fit in. When your parents think you are nothing, when they tell you your other siblings are better than you, when they alienate you and don’t even take notice of your pain. When your siblings don’t accept you, when your spouse ignores you and the world only revolves around them. When your friend, partner takes you for granted and ignores you. When your boss is always asking other peoples opinion and ignoring your opinion even when it is right. When you boss tells you in the face “I don’t like you” and does not pay attention to your work. You can add on to the list, these are but few of the examples that I thought I could use to introduce the topic.
Yes what do you do? I am no expert but will share with you some of the things that have helped me to get back my self confidence, dignity and achieve my goals in different circumstances. I have grown up in a supportive family and my parents and siblings have always been there for me and encouraged me when I faced challenges.
When you are facing a crisis that is chewing up your self confidence, the first and most important thing is to accept that you have a challenge ahead of you, and that you and you alone have to stand up and face this challenge. Find a support group that can help you, be it your family, friends, church, professional assistance, people you trust and so on. Do not suffer in silence.
 What do I mean? If you are in denial and accept the bad words, statements and situations that are tearing your confidence apart as normal, your self esteem and confidence will keep deteriorating until it’s no more.  But if you accept that people around you are pulling you down, it is time to raise yourself up. You are your own enemy, if you don’t have the initiative to pull yourself up, you will stay down there and people will continue to stamp on you until you are completely destroyed.
 In one of my continuous studies I found myself facing a supervisor who never liked me, did not like my work, my skin colour and always put me down.  It was hard for me to understand and accept the situation. After a couple of months I realised that things are not changing and I am being pulled down and down. I told myself, ‘pick yourself up and face the challenge’. I looked back from where I started, who I was before I met this supervisor, what I achieved and my goals, I stood up to face the challenge. I worked hard, I focused on what I wanted to achieve, I remembered that it is me who has to stand up and prove myself strong and confident. And after some years I stood up and faced my supervisor, told him about all the prejudices that he had against me and told him what I wanted. I was confident, I stood up against my challenge and I excelled.  My supervisor was shocked and from this day on he started to respect me. And I still respected him.
If I did not stand up to face the challenges I had, I would not have achieved my goal, though my self confidence was bruised, I managed to get it back and still stand with it today.
So if you are facing challenges of whatever kind, do not give up, do not lose hope, focus on your goal and get back the self confidence and dignity that you once had before you met the challenge. It is never too late. You can always stand up again.
To my girls and women out there who feel like nobodies and their dignity and self esteem has been destroyed, it is time to stand up and take it back. During my challenges I had a great support group and they stood by me, they listened to me when I needed to talk, they encouraged me, they gave me hope. You can also be the one to encourage, the one that gives hope, and you can help someone to get their self esteem, self-confidence and dignity back.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Eyes on the Goal!

It was in kindergarten that I looked forward to go to primary school. That time I did not even know what working hard was but all I knew was I had a goal, and that goal was to go to primary school. The chance finally came, I was now in primary school, and my goals changed every year. Each year I looked forward to moving to the next class. As each school year came to an end, I looked forward to passing my exams and go to the next class. That was my goal. And then came the final year of primary school by this time my goal was to go to Secondary school. Because one was not sure if they will be selected to go to the government secondary school, the competition was always high, but at the end of the day my goal never changed.

When I finally got into secondary school, I was very excited to see how different it was from primary school and for me that is where I learned how to work hard. Because here it was not just a matter of passing from one class to another, the grades mattered. You had to pass very well so that your certificate had the right grades. These grades determined your future goals. Here the goals were different; I had to work hard to pass so that I go to University. When I was in primary school I did not have any idea of University studies but when I got to Secondary school I realized this was important for my future. Yes I also started thinking of the future. What was my future any way? For me the future at this point was University education, I always wanted to be an independent person; I always told myself “I will work hard to achieve my goals”. And by the grace of God I went through my education and managed to reach my goals.

From primary school through to Secondary school, I saw most of my colleagues drop out of school, for different reasons, some got married, others just thought they don’t like school anymore, while there were others who dropped out because they had family problems which were beyond their control and they were just caught in the whole thing, and as children they had no control, it was sad. BUT no matter what you have been through and though circumstances have changed and made it difficult to achieve your goals, don’t give up. Never ever give up, you can always achieve your dreams.

So, some of you are wondering OK, so what is this all about? I will tell you, it is about having goals in life and working towards them each day of your life. I would like to encourage each one of you to have a goal or goals in life. These should be your focus, and work towards them. As you achieve these goals one by one, no matter how long it takes, you will develop skill, strength and endurance.

When you see successful people, it is out of sacrifice, strength, endurance and most of all GOALS, they had goals and for each goal they achieved it strengthened them to focus on the next one.
I hope we can look back and search our hearts for those goals which we had, have we achieved them? How far are we from achieving them?
I look forward to hearing your testimonies.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


ARE YOU A MERE AVERAGE STUDENT IN CLASS? I WAS TOO, and I have also had my fair share of performing below average. I started standard 1 at an early age of 3; I was not the smartest kid in class. I never got the 1st position but somehow managed to not repeat a class, until standard 8. After two unsuccessful attempts at Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PLSCE) in Blantyre, a relation invited me to Bangula in Nsanje where I gave yet another shot at secondary school selection, which was my only way to secondary school. There was no way my parents were going to afford private secondary school. The environment in Bangula was tough, because now I had to make several borehole rounds every morning before school and in the afternoons after school, now I had to study under a kerosene lamp (koloboyi)…anyway, the Juicy part is, at the 3rd attempt, I got selected to a national Secondary School!

My four years at Secondary School were quite eventful and remarkable, but I will not bother you with details. It is worth mentioning, though, that I came from a low income family, and used to cry every time I was going to school because the pocket money was just never enough. My mum never stopped reminding me how education would change my situation and her advice gave me a lot of energy. At school, I made some deliberate choices and decisions, to make sure that I remain one of the top students. No boys, studying hard and choosing good friends were some of the choices I made. Boys were a NO NO!! for me at this stage, they were a distraction.

After being successful in both Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) and University Entrance Exams, I joined Chancellor College (Chanco) to pursue a Bachelor degree in Social Science.  After the first week orientation I was convinced that I wanted to major in Economics. However, in my very first test in college, which also happened to be my economics, I scored a meager 12%! That was a huge setback! Not only was I at risk of being withdrawn from college, but it also dented my chances of ever majoring in economics. I knew I had to work extra hard. I wouldn’t have done it if it were not for the amazing girls I made friends with.  Collectively, we would be known as “Pooled Intelligence”, apparently because we used to study together. We ate together, walked together, laughed together and most importantly, studied together. Here, I learnt team work builds!! Four years later in 2001, we graduated with Credits. CHOOSE FRIENDS WISELY!!!!!

A year after graduation, I returned to Chanco to pursue a Masters degree in Economics, at which point, I also joined as a Lecturer in the Economics Department. At the age of 27, I proceeded to the University of Cape Town, South Africa to pursue a PhD in Economics. Tears (IT’S NOT A TYPO!!!) later, I became Dr Grace Kumchulesi.

I recently joined the Population Council, an international research organization headquartered in New York City, where I am based. At Pop Council, I am in a research group called “Malawi Team”. We conduct research in Balaka and Machinga districts that helps adolescent boys and girls who face the dual challenges of poverty and HIV/AIDS make reproductive choices that put them on a safer, healthier, and more productive path to adulthood.

 It hasn’t been easy. At times, I felt like giving up, but, my supportive family and my friends cheered me on.  I wouldn’t have done it on my own. God was with me every second of the clock. I learnt from my experience that everyone has potential. We cannot all become Economists (or be in the best profession we can think of), but we can certainly do best in whatever we put our minds on. Kaya ndi (be it) school, for those who are still studying; Kaya ndi (be it) business, however small it maybe; kaya ndi maganyu omwewa (be it piece work), tiyeni atsikana tilimbikile (let us work hard girls). With hard work and determination you can become anything you want to become. Having a good support system can also make a difference in whatever you set out to do. And remember, the least we can do is also to be supportive to others. WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE By SUPPORTING SOMEONE AND CHANGING THEIR LIVES FOREVER!!!!!

My story will not be complete if I do not mention that after “putting my life on hold”, God blessed me with the such a selfless and loving husband. At the ripe age of 34, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. I am able to provide for her and I can’t wait to tell her my story when she grows older. That I worked so hard so that I should be able to provide anything she needed. That she must do the same if she wants to be able to provide for her children-my future grandchildren.

For those of you wishing to become Economists, I say it is POSSIBLE. YOU ARE NEVER LATE IF YOU DON’T SHOW UP J, so they say. Have a blessed day ASUNGWANA A TSOGOLO LOKONGOLA!!!


I am back and this time I have some interesting real life stories, thanks to my contributors.

These are their life stories from their childhood detailing their experiences and how they got where they are today.

As you can see from the topic, we will be looking at the girl child (Msungwana). As a girl myself (now a woman), I have realized how I was encouraged by the people around me, their stories and achievements. It is with this passion that I bring you these stories from different women who were once young girls. I hope you can read and share these stories with the young girls and women in your life. 

These stories are for everyone, men and women, boys and girls, we all need each other and we all need to encourage one another. I publish these stories to encourage the girls who are still in school following their dreams and bring back those young dreams in those women who have given up on their childhood dreams. It is never too late.

Please enjoy our first story, and many thanks to our contributor, I must say I was moved and encouraged. I hope you will be too.