On Human  rights day, we would like to appreciate one of the SWD alumni Andrew Mdala, who is now soaring to greater heights by representing Malawi internationally as an advocate for children’s rights and democracy. Through his Open Society Foundation fellowship, the 28 year old lawyer continues to advocate for children’s rights in Malawi and in Hungary, while also advocating for democracy through the Generation Democracy Global Network. Andrew explains how Students with Dreams Programme helped him in the advancement of his career as a human rights advocate. 

While studying law at Chancellor College, Andrew joined the Students with Dreams programme and developed and implemented a project called the Malamusi Legal Clinic in 2014. Malamusi Legal Clinic was a community outreach project that provided pro-bono legal services as a means of championing poor people’s access to justice.

“Basically in the project we focused on sensitizing communities in Zomba on domestic violence, child abuse, defilement and child-headed homes. We collected data on these areas and we reported some of these cases to the victim support unit in Zomba, and some cases we referred them to the high court and magistrate court. We also worked with Women’s Clubs in these areas,” says Andrew

The project was designed to identify and accelerate urgent and underrepresented cases. It included community sensitization where people were made aware of how those requiring legal support can contact the clinic.  Initially, the clinic only targeted women and children, but later in the project male clients were also accommodated. The project targeted residents of selected areas within Zomba namely Chikanda, Domasi, Sadzi and Malosa, and all work was done on a pro-bono basis.

“One of the main achievements of the project was the sensitization part. In most cases most women did not even know that they were being abused in their homes and that such behavior was illegal. The project opened up their eyes and made them aware of their rights.”

“Personally, undertaking the project under Students with Dreams helped me to become more selfless and to develop an attitude of giving to my community. Ever since I did my project, I have always looked out for opportunities on how I can best help communities around me. I currently do a youth mentor-ship project with three colleagues in which we go out and conduct career-guidance talks in Secondary Schools in Blantyre, as a way of giving back to my community and the youth in Malawi.”

“As a lawyer, public speaking is one of the main things that I am required to do. The Students with Dreams programme focuses a lot on developing one’s public speaking skills and this aspect helped me to develop, as we were required to make presentations on our projects every week. Thus I acquired skills which have been very relevant to my career.”

“After completing my studies at Chancellor College in 2015, I joined the Malawi Government and worked as a prosecutor until January 2017 when I started doing the Open Society Foundations Fellowship, which I am doing on child rights. My Students with Dreams project was also on children’s rights so there is a clear correlation between my project and my present work.”

“Students with Dreams was all about leadership. I have always used the leadership skills that I acquired in my work and community. I am also the Malawian representative in a global network of young people called “Generation Democracy” an American project that mentors young people to be enforcers of democratic principles in their countries.”

“Students with Dreams helped me a lot in both my personal and career development. The programme is very good as far as shaping young dreamers to become leaders, which is an aspect that one does not find in our educational system.” concludes Andrew.

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