Your Excellency, you are the Founder & President of a prestigious foundation, Justina Mutale Foundation. Why you chose the path you are on?
From a young age, I have always been intrigued about the way the world works and who pulls the strings. I have studied International Relations, Political Science and Diplomacy. I have also studied Public Administration, International Development and Practical Philosophy. In my previous life I have worked in the Commonwealth Secretariat, an international development organisation, boasting over 54 countries around the world. I now work as a Humanitarian and Charity Professional, running two NGOs – The Justina Mutale Foundation focused on Gender Equality and the Empowering and upholding the rights of Women and Girls to help secure a 50-50 Planet, in which every high-level decision-making process can take the perspectives of both genders on board. My other organisation POSITIVE RUNWAY: A Global Catwalk to Stop the Spread work with young people to bridge the gap in the global efforts to top the Spread of HIV/AIDS by using a discourse that is appropriate to 21st century young generation.
You are a passionate about your work, what drives your vision?
The Motivation for doing what I do comes directly from the heart. I am blessed in that I work in an industry for which I have a natural passion. When you love what you do and enjoy your work as much as I do, and when one is focused on getting the job done without focusing on the reward, there no limit to how a far one can go. As an African, I grew up in an environment that emphasized empathy and selflessness. It also emphasized the Golden Rule, “to do unto others what you would want them to do unto you” by going beyond self-actualization and personal development to benefit others. I also believe in the notion of “noblesse oblige”, which is an inferred responsibility of privileged people to act with generosity and nobility towards those less privileged.
What is the closest cause to your heart?
The closest cause to my heart is to empower humanity and secure human prosperity through the empowerment of women and girls. I envision a world in which each woman and girl, and their communities have an opportunity to reach their highest potential. I believe that every girl in the world, regardless of background, has potential and that one day, every girl in the world can have access to higher education, opportunities and networks to enable her to reach her highest potential, to escape poverty and live a fulfilling life. My organisation, the Justina Mutale Foundation aims to educate, empower, inspire and motivate women and girls to become effective leaders and influential players in leadership and the decision-making process in business, politics, society, and all other walks of life. Our flagship project is the Justina Mutale Scholarship Programme, which offers young women and girls from underprivileged families in Africa an opportunity to access higher education around the world. It is my belief that that the provision of quality education is paramount to the eradication of poverty and its feminisation.
What current projects are you working on?
My team and I are currently working on our new Strategic Plan for the next three Year. We have 4 critical programme areas. Under Leadership and Training, we run training workshops and seminars and mentorship programmes for women as well as young women and girls. We are also in the process of the Launching the Justina Mutale Young Women Leaders Fellowship Programme. We hope to expand the Scholarships Programme to offer a minimum of 100 Scholarships per year across the African continent. In response to the United Nations 2017 theme of the Commission on the Status of Women, focused on women’s economic empowerment in a changing world of work, I am one of the six organisations of WINTRADE WEEK LONDON 2018, a signature global convention of women in international Trade, Business and Enterprise, which takes place in London from 14-18 May 2018 bringing together top women entrepreneurs from all over the world.
What is your vision for an enhanced world? What needs to happen?
In the African philosophy of Ubuntu, we believe that “a person is a person through other persons”, and that there exists a common bond among us all. Ubuntu teaches us wholeness and compassion, which provides a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that we belong to a greater whole and therefore, the suffering of others is our own suffering. As a humanitarian, my enhanced vision of the world is one where every person born in this world can claim their birth right to inherit the wealth of the earth. I envision a world where every person on earth has enough to eat and where no one goes to bed hungry. A world where there is a just, equitable and fair distribution of food and wealth among all the inhabitants of the Earth. The idea that we are different and separate from other people has caused the world to venture into unnecessary wars, which have led to the violation of the human rights and the persecution of people who we consider to be different from ourselves. The belief that we are different and separate from others has also led to the world suffering all kinds of setbacks including war, world hunger, poverty, conflict, as well as economic, social and gender inequalities. I would like to see a world where humanity can live as one happy global human family built on love, unity, peace and harmony.
What are the 3 key steps you took, and which could inspire other people to change their lives for the better and ultimately our collective world?
First and foremost, I have followed my heart and my passion, and I work in a field that comes naturally to me. The motivation for working in my profession comes directly from the heart. My job is almost a hobby to me and therefore my work gives me immense pleasure. Secondly, I do not look at obstacles. I always focus on the goal at hand and ensure that what I have set out to do gets done despite any obstacles that might stand in my way. Limiting beliefs, traditions, cultures and social conditioning have prevented many people from unleashing their full potential. Thirdly, I believe that the next person is me and I am the next person. Therefore, if I want good for me, I must want good for the next person and for everyone in the world, because we all belong to one greater whole. If one piece of that whole is broken, then the whole cannot hold.
What do adults have to practically do to inspire younger generations?
It is important to let children know that happiness is their natural state. That one has to be happy in order to be successful, because success does not naturally lead to happiness, whereas happiness naturally leads to success. Children need to be taught to be content with what they have and to love themselves. Love is the most powerful force of energy in the world. And when one loves oneself, then it is easy to spread that love to others. Children need to be inspired to follow heir natural passion in their choice of vocation or career, because when one enjoys one’s work, there is no limit to how far that person can go.
How do you keep the balance in your busy life and what is your idea of a dream holiday?
You know, they do say, all work and no play, makes one a dull person. There is always time to relax no matter how busy one’s schedule may be. Incidentally, I was recently asked to provide the Foreword for book on “Redeeming Your Time Effectively”. In a fast-paced world, we find ourselves with unprecedented demands on our time, with our attention being sought from all corners of the world, in different directions, day and night via smart phones with their apps and social media and online tools of communication, through which information and messages are relayed to us 24 hours a day. And most of this communication almost always appears to be urgent or to demand our urgent attention. It may therefore, often seem that there isn’t enough time in a day to do everything that one needs to do. This false perspective on time can lead to a build-up of unnecessary stress for most people. However, my attitude to time is guided by the understanding that there is a difference between “Clock Time” and “Real Time” and if one cannot tell the difference between the two, then everything else that one might try to do to manage one’s time will not work to one’s benefit. Based on this belief, I always have time to go to the beauty spar, to go shopping, to read, to socialise, spend quality time with my children, go on holiday and do all the other things that I enjoy doing outside of my work.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
My early years were spent in a Catholic school run by the Catholic church. I always recall that when I was very young, I used to admire the nuns and priests as they stood at the alter talking about saving humanity and saving sinners from going to hell. At that young age, I wanted to be a nun or a priest, because in my young mind, I thought being a nun or priest and serving God would the greatest service to humanity. I wanted to serve God. I also wanted to serve and save humanity. At that young age, I wanted to feed the hungry, I wanted to comfort the poor and I wanted to save sinners from burning in hell. And, lol and behold, here I am, a humanitarian working to save humanity from a hell on earth in the 21st century!
What is your favourite food?
I travel a lot and I am adventurous with food. I do not have a favourite food as I am still sampling the foods of the world and it would be too soon for me to decide on which one is my favourite. Of course, at the moment Zambian food comes tops as that is my traditional food and nothing beats one’s tradition, culture and heritage, which in most cases is expressed through food.
Who most inspires you?
I come from a background of very positive, strong, powerful and assertive women. My mother and other women in my family background taught me that a woman has the power to lead and to shape the world. These women have shown me that women are the backbone of society and the world’s most potent force. From a young age I could see in all the strong and powerful women around me that they had a strong sense of community and strongly identified their connection to the community in all their work, with an inbuilt generosity of spirit and strong emotional intelligence. While women in other parts of the world have only in recent years been advocating to keep their maiden names after marriage in pursuant of the gender equality, where my mother comes from, married women have since time immemorial always kept their maiden names and never take up the husband’s name. I learned at that young age that women were the backbone of society and the world’s most potent force, who were natural born leaders. This knowledge, coupled with my childhood experiences, has reinforced my belief in the capability of women to lead and has shaped my leadership style and its potential.
If you could be anyone in history for a day – past or current – who would you choose to be and why?
If I were to go back in time, and be anyone in history, I would still want to be myself. I believe that I have lived many times before and therefore, I am part of history. The circumstances of my birth and my experiences in life thus far, are what have moulded me into the person that I am today, and into who I have been before, will be tomorrow, and for all the days to come. And I would not want to change anything about myself.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
While my organizations have become global brands, I too have found that I have become a global brand in my own right, with my name highly sought after around the world to attach to commercial, humanitarian, community and charitable causes across the globe. I have speaking engagements lined-up all over the world throughout the year. I have also received numerous international awards, honours and accolades in different parts of the world. In 5 years I want to see that I have inspired millions of women and girls and their communities to reach their highest potential. I want to see that I have helped young women and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds graduate from top universities. I want to see that I have empowered humanity and helped secure human prosperity. In five years, I want to see that that I have made a difference and made this world a little better than it is now.
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