By staff reporter 17/10/2015

Malawi’s former president and founder of the Joyce Banda Foundation International (JBFI), Joyce Banda on Saturday, October 17, 2015, addressed university student leaders from across the United States of America who have been gathering in Washington DC under the umbrella of the National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF). This year’s events began on Friday, October 16 and ends on Sunday, October 18, 2015.

Banda addressed about 350 university student leaders at the Hyatt Hotel in Washington DC. Among the student leaders, was a Malawian studying in the US, Wongani Mtika.
Her address centered on the subject of ‘Servant Leadership.’ Dr. Joyce Banda shared her life lessons that she said prepared her ahead of becoming a ‘Servant Leader’.

“I am here to share with you the lessons that I learnt on the journey before I became a politician and Head of State. I believe in ‘Servant Leadership’; leadership is a love affair.

“Leaders fall in love with the people they serve and the people fall in love with their leader. That kind of leadership with the masses endures all,” she said.

According to a statement issued on Sunday by the Office of the Former President, she advised the student leaders to ensure that they must draw up a ‘mission statement’, saying she had one when she was 31 years old. Banda said that choices the youth make in life today push them either forward or backward.

“My mission in life is to assist the women and youth gain social and political empowerment through entrepreneurship and education,” she said, adding that some of initiatives she has championed, based on her mission statement, have been “life-changing.”

Banda cited her setting up of the National Business Women Association of Malawi (NABW) in 1989, a grass-root organization that distributes soft loans to small and medium scale business women, as having been “phenomenal” in economically empowering grassroots women.

Banda explained that leadership these days has been redefined at all levels such as at church, corporate and nation, where people are looking for leaders who listen to them and adequately address their aspirations.

“Gone are the days when leaders could oppress the people. If they attempt to do it; if they are locked up in the past, they are learning the hard way because the people show them the exit door; leaders are emerging even from the marketplace place; people are choosing leaders from amongst themselves,” observed Banda, adding that a ‘servant leader’ is one cares more about the people than amassing much power for themselves.

After her address, the former president answered a number of questions from the students on various leadership issues, including what challenges she faced as Head of State in a patriarchal set up. She said while challenges will always be there, she enjoyed a lot of support from Malawians, particularly men, which made her life easier as a leader.

She attributed this to her ‘inclusive’ approach to leadership where took everyone on board “regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or religion”.

The NSLF is a three-day annual event that brings together a diverse group of university leaders from across the country. The NSLF program is intentionally relational. Students interact with fellow students, recent college graduates, young professionals and established adults from the political, business and social service sectors of society.

Though the specifics of the forum shift slightly from year to year, core activities include keynote speeches by various political leaders, small group breakout sessions after larger meetings, panel discussions and more.