Interview with Lily Banda


The video contains such a powerful speech, depicted by Lily Banda, concerning the challenges facing women in modern Malawi.

1) Tell the readers a little bit about yourself.

My name is Lily Banda , born and bred in Malawi. I am a singer and poet. I have also worked in radio and TV for the past 3years producing content geared towards the advocacy of children's rights, empowerment of youth, women and so on. I also speak to women's groups and also secondary school students

2) What inspired you to be so passionate about advocating for women's rights?

My journey which has led to people identifying as one who is passionate about women's rights started when I felt that some things that happened to women in my society when I wanted to speak for myself. I am also a woman and I too have to face the same challenges as all women do world over. but as I gained notoriety I learned it was useless to speak up only for ones self, for whatever you are given in this life, whatever strength you have,is not for you to use just for yourself but to pour out into others. And so, here I am now I also advocate for children rights apart from being the most vulnerable members in our society they are often the most overlooked and forgotten.

3)What gender based challenges are you aware of in Malawi?

Malawi has a couple of challenges, ending child marriages, equal access to education for girls, defilement cases are very prevalent, abolishing harmful cultural practices, sexual harassment and sexual violence.

4) What do you think needs to happen in Malawi (and other countries) to deal with such discrimination?

A change of mindset. Women are not second class citizens or possessions, they are people and that's how we must think of them (us), as people.

5) There is an argument (belief) that getting equality for women will undermine the Malawian culture and customs. People believe that this equality will create an imbalance in gender based roles within the home. what are your views on this?

That was once the case but I work with young Malawians both girls and boys and they are eager for change and progress and realise to move forward as a nation we need all hands on deck, each has a role to play. In my opinion I feel that people did not fully grasp the idea of equality. Others felt it was a call to battle with the other sex, others an attempt to seize the other sex's power and rule over them, others felt it was a doing away of men that they would no longer be needed ,others just don't like change. There is need for more detailed awareness on the ideas of equality and what that involves. But to speak on behalf of my generation,we do not want to forget where we come from but neither are we both male and female afraid to question and stop what are clearly demeaning oppressive and barbaric cultural practices that are harmful to girls and boys.

6) Your speech in the video was very powerful. You could really feel the passion as you spoke. what motivate/inspired you towards such a topic?

Oh man, where do I start?

Because it is wrong. Undressing women is wrong. Raping women is wrong. Sexual abuse of any kind is wrong.

7) How was your video/message received by the general public? what was the feedback?

The feedback I got was overwhelming. Girls who had been raped, brothers with sisters who had been raped , friends of friends who had been raped , my own friends walked up to me pull me into a hug and just cry, I did not know what to do.

8) Your video was published in 2014. 2 years on, have you noticed any change (good or bad) in relation to any of the issues you addressed?

No. the victim still gets blamed when the crime of rape has been committed, young women still do not report cases, we do not go for counselling. But the fight goes on and trust me young people are involved and with organisations encouraging men to protect women like girl effect, Timveni, He for She; the police now arresting offenders when cases are reported and individuals like Tsiku Oliver teaching boys in Dedza no means no. slowly, we will see a change.

9) If you had power to change 1 thing in Malawi, for the better, what would it be and why?

Unity. I would want Malawians to work as one people, and our leaders to consider the people (I dont know, it sounds like 2 things)

*lol thats fine*

10) Would you call yourself an activist?

Yes. And I believe everyone else is. You may not necessarily be getting up on stage to talk about your beliefs but we all have the ability to effect change.

11) How do you contribute to making Malawi a more habitable place for other girls/women?

If I can quote Nas 'education is real power',we must break the cycle and educate boys and girls . Boys need to learn how to coexist peacefully with women and girls need to be given new information to pass on to their daughters in future.

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12) Do you consider yourself a feminist? why do you think this label has such a negative connotation associate with it?

People say I am a feminist, I didn't even know what that was until it was mentioned, I am just a human being who was born a woman and wants to live in a safe environment in which I can contribute to society, and reach my fullest potential. I think the negativity comes from the idea that it's a movement of women who want to rule over men.(I can assure you most women have greater pursuits).

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13) Do you believe in the idea that women who opt to pursue a career do so at the detriment of a personal life?

I chose not to look at it in that way. Finding someone compatible to share your life with, is hard enough to do whichever way your life is structured.

14) Why do you think Malawi continuously refuses to recognise equality for women in all areas of life; be it education, employment ect?

I don't know if 'refuse' is the right word, because a lot more women now have access to education, employment opportunities, business loans etc. It's not all sunshine and lemon drops but I think 'prioritise' would be a more fitting description.

15) What do we as Malawians need to do to start making a change?

Allow the change to actually happen. We are always excited to fly off to other countries for workshops and trainings and seminars. We don't mind policy making meetings at fancy hotels by the shores of Lake Malawi. And you can count on it ,we love the allowances! But we do not allow the change to happen on the ground and that's the place where it matters most

16) Do you think there will ever be a freely elected female president in Malawi? *hopeful*

We are gonna have to work hard for that. And she's going to have to extra extra try.

17) Lastly, any advice for young girls in Malawi (who may be facing gender based barriers)?

The system will let you down, but you are your last line of defence. Be resilient in what you believe is right and start making noise till we listen and help.

Listening to Lily's thoughts and outlook on this topic is so inspiring. It encourage all of us to get involved and contribute to changing our nation together. If more and more people within our generation inhabit these views, Malawi will definitely change for the better.

I am all for culture preservation, but I definitely think it is time the system in Malawi changed. We need to get to a place where kids feel comfortable enough to report assault. Where I am not left with this question of whose place is it to do something?

In the video, she spoke about the father that abuses his daughters. To the point where the last born has to take a pill to be on her period all year round, just so it doesn't happen to her; THIS MADE ME SICK. After feeling sick, I became ANGRY; 3-4 days a period a month is bad enough, let alone a young girl having to endure it for the entire year.

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THE SYSTEM HAS DEFINITELY FAILED HER!

where is her protection?

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This part of the video really left me confused and I have so many questions rushing through my head. Where is she getting this medication from? Don't they ask her why she needs a yearly supply of this medication? If they know why, why hasn't anything been done about it? Why is this man allowed to violet all his daughters and get away with it? Where is the police? What future are we giving these children? What are we teaching them about their self worth? About the importance of what they say?

The issue in most african cultures is that sexual assault by a family member is something you never speak about. They will tell you, you will break up the family...

urrrmmm.... excuse me?! I think you will find that YOU broke up the family when you decided to molest me!

My heart goes out to the young girls (or boys) that have to live in a world where they have to keep their pain a secret. Where they are not able to get the justice they deserve and are able to heal. In particular to the story of the abusive father; a cannot even imagine what it must feel like to be betrayed by the one person entrusted in this world to protect you.

We need a change in culture. Where adults are held accountable for what they do, publicly. We need a law enforcement system that actually enforces the law. we need education is school that teach kids what rights they have access to; and most importantly, we need an advocate for all the children who may not have a voice to express their pain.

How do Malawian's morally justify the acceptance of the raping of a disabled woman? People feel like it is okay to do these things because there is no accountability. People are literally, getting away with murder. The most annoying thing in these cases is that, the entire community will usually know what happened; but no one will feel obligated to call their actions to question. No one will want to help the victim.

As mentioned in the video, in the event that the abuse is brought to light, the punishments do nothing to punish the perpetrator, but rather continue to punish the victim. So for example, this man rapes me, and your judgement is for us to get married. Not only is this supporting child marriages (in most cases where the victim is a young girl); but again it is an act that shields the perpetrator from facing up to what they have done. Its as if they are silencing the entire situation with the marriage. Its as if they believe a man cannot rape his own wife (I wont even get into this discussion today), so they attempt to remove the rape factor out of the equation through forcing them to get married. But this does nothing in restoring the woman's self worth. It doesn't heal her from the ordeal she went through. The only thing it does in normalise this rape. It teaches the woman that her voice does not matter, that her feelings do not matter. So if this ordeal was to happen to someone around her, she would give the worst advice ever; based on her own experience, she would probably advice them to do nothing.... Say nothing.... Let it go... Move on! And just like that, the cycle of unreported abuse is perpetuated.

As human beings, we need to start caring about people around us, without having a vested interest or wanting to gain something in return. We need to be our sister's keeper.

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Kheliwe Njolinjo

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