It's been a long journey for one Temwachi Elizabeth Changwa to rise to where she is today, holding the top position of Acting Commercial Director for the national flag carrier, Air Malawi. She shares her life story with reporter Sam Banda Jnr.
Your full names, when you were born and where you come from.
My given names are Temwachi Elizabeth Longwe born from William Makura Longwe and Mercy Florence Thindwa. I was born on 12th June, 1975 at Zomba Top Hospital and I am a third born in my family. I come from Makura village, Traditional Authority Mtwalo in Mzimba.
What is your marital status?
I am married to Nic Changwa.
Now tell me your educational background.
I went to Lilongwe Demonstration School located inside Lilongwe Teachers' College. My Mother was a tutor at the teachers' college. After that we moved to Mzuzu where my father was Commissioner of Police. In Mzuzu, I went to Mzuzu Demonstration School [current campus for Mzuzu University]. Thereafter I went to Police Secondary School in Zomba where I sat for the MSCE. I didn't do well, so I repeated form four at Liwaladzi Secondary School in Nkhotakota. I got 24 points and was selected to Chancellor College of the University of Malawi in Zomba where I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Social Science in 1997.
You are currently working as Acting Commercial Director at Air Malawi, what has it taken you to be there?
I started working for Air Malawi on 20 March, 2000 and was requested to act as Commercial Director on 7th November, 2007. Actually before joining Air Malawi, I worked for Habitat for Humanity from 1998 – 1999. I have always wanted to work for Air Malawi. Before my parents asked me to repeat form four at Liwaladzi Secondary School, I applied for a position of Air Hostess with Air Malawi and this was around 1992. Although my parents wanted me back to school, I insisted to go for the interview at Air Malawi but I was not successful. Since that time, my eyes were on Air Malawi. Aviation is my passion.
What have been the challenges working on this position?
Working in such a position and being a woman is a challenge. One of the challenges women working in such positions face is achieving a "whole" life, or a life characterized by a balance between work and non-work roles. The business world makes balancing both work and non-work roles difficult, and as women, we have bigger roles to play even at home, thus even if you have a lot of work and targets to achieve, it is always a challenge for a woman to work during odd hours and at the same time be expected to be at home in good time. In addition, for a woman to work during odd hours is always not a welcome idea in our homes unlike men. The second challenge is the issue of Agency, or behaviours such as assertiveness and exerting power over others. This is typically associated with leadership. However, it is also typically associated with masculinity, which often leads to negative reactions towards us women when we are engaging in agentic behaviours. Men need to accept that at work, women can exert and exercise power over them.
What does your work entail?
My work on the current position at Air Malawi involves developing and implementing the company's marketing plans and strategies to achieve revenue targets, customer loyalty and travel agent support. I also manage or supervise all Air Malawi sales outlets; locally and outside the country [Johannesburg, Harare, Lusaka, Nairobi and Dar-es-salaam]. My job also sees me liaising with other aviation authorities and companies on behalf of Air Malawi.
Who motivates you?
My grandmother, Agogo Thindwa is my motivator. This year in May, she will be 96 years old but she is still very strong and very prayerful. She has taught me never to give up on anything. At 96, she still manages her maize gardens and does small businesses. Even though she has children, in-laws, grandchildren who help her all the time, she refuses to stay idle. To date, she takes a fast one day, a week to pray for her family. She has truly motivated my life. I want to be like her.
What are your plans in the next five years?
Well, my plan in the next five years is to excel in my aviation skills. In these years, I am planning to attain a Master's degree in Aviation Management. We need and we must develop the aviation industry in Malawi and I want to be part of that. But as I make my plan, I am also conscious that it's only God who can make these plans into reality.
What has been the secret behind your success?
My secret that has led me to climb to my position is my faith in God. I combine this with obedience and humility. It is always important in our life [and in our work life], to be obedient and to be humble. Before I rose to my position, my immediate boss would send me to do other duties that are not within my core responsibilities but I used to do them willingly and whole-heartedly, you never know, these might have been the ladders that took me to the top.
What is your advice to girls out there who want to follow in your footsteps and fellow women?
My advice to young women and girls out there is to always put God first everything. The second advice is in accordance with Deuteronomy 5:16: "Honour your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you". This even means honouring our masters at work by working hard and being obedient and not only God will reward them but even the world will recognize them.
How do you spend your time when you are not at work?
Apart from working for Air Malawi, I go to church every Sunday; I mix with friends and family. I love making new friends; I also like traveling [local tourism].
It's been a pleasure talking to you but before we pat, any other comments you would want to make as regards your life, work and the country?
My last words are to thank God for making me what I am today. I owe it to Him. I also would like to encourage everyone reading this story to love our country Malawi and we can show this by supporting and promoting our local companies and promoting our beautiful country out there, every time we travel. I am a champion of best buy Malawian. I work for Air Malawi and I have learnt and seen how Kenyans, South Africans support and love their airline.