A socially isolated family dance-party, Bowen Island, BC.

If she were home right now, Mwai Mphande, would be locked-in with her family, homeschooling her sister’s two kids, dancing and playing board games at night. Instead, she’s a world away, on Bowen Island, doing everything she can to not let a global pandemic take away the opportunity of a lifetime.

“When you come from where I come from, to see somewhere outside of Africa is SO huge. It’s everyone’s dream,” says Mwai. “Sometimes I can’t believe I’m here, it’s overwhelming.”

Mwai comes from Malawi, the warm heart of Africa, and one of the least developed countries in the world. There, she is known as Lady Pace and she can be seen frequently on TV and heard on the radio. She’s known for her music, but also simply for daring to step into the world of hip hop as a woman.

Mwai says that in the early part of her career, she wrote her songs just to try and get people’s attention. Once she managed to do that, music morphed into a vehicle for self-expression. In 2016, Mwai’s art took on a greater purpose: to fight for the rights of women and girls in Malawi and around the world.

That year, Mwai met her friend Patti de Sante, who she is currently living with on Bowen Island.

“She was telling me about all these things, and talked about the Chief, who she later introduced me to,” says Mwai. The “Chief” by the way, is Chief Kachindamoto, a former secretary chosen to lead some 900,000 people. She’s made it her mission to end child marriage in Malawi. “When I met the chief, she was in the middle of stripping down a lower level chief who had allowed a child marriage to be performed in his village. When I saw this, I felt like I was meeting the most powerful woman I could ever imagine. Of course, I knew that child marriage happened in Malawi, but you get busy in your life and don’t really pay attention. When I met the girls though, it got really personal for me.”

Mwai Mphande and Patti de Sante on tour and celebrating the UN’s Year of Indigenous Languages, in Zanzibar.

Since meeting Kachindamoto, Mwai has recorded an entire album devoted to the subject of gender rights. She has yet to release most of the songs, as she is considering the best strategies to ensure that her message is heard.

Coming to Canada was part of her plan to also get known outside of Africa and continue her activism by initiating a new organization called, “Music Heals Malawi,” learning from and complementing the Canadian organization Music Heals. 

After a few initial gigs and lots of enthusiasm, Mwai was sure by the date of her scheduled departure in June, she could achieve her goal of recording a few songs with artists here. She was sure that new connections with music therapists and Music Heals would move the organization forward, too. She hasn’t given up on those goals but clearly, respecting the request to stay home, she’s been forced to shift, and rethink the next few months. She’s taking free online courses on early childhood development as well as gender and health, offered by USAID. She’s also HOPING to start an App-development course, starting on April 9 with a leading-edge organization called BrainStation, who she has met with already.

“I’d like to build apps that will actually help us, in Malawi,” says Mwai. “Like my friend Caroline, a medical doctor, she’s created an app that combines data entered by healthcare workers to support evidence-based decision making in the care of newborns. Malawi has one of the highest rates of child mortality in the world – 25% of newborns don’t make it. We need more technology that the youth are engaged in and welcoming.  We need these apps designed by Malawians for Malawians. I know that if I can learn how to do this work, I can teach others, and we can work together to get really important things done.”

The catch, of course, is that this is not a FREE course. Bringing valuable skills back home comes at a cost – and not one Mwai can afford to pay. So, she’s looking for support to help make it happen:

The user interface design course costs $2900.00  So far she has raised $200 so she still has $2700 remaining.  She did ask Brain Station for assistance but they have not responded yet, most likely due to COVID and their need like others to pay their bills.  

Mwai is willing to offer some unique programming in lieu of a donation.  She is happy to set up some online educational sessions with school-age kids regarding her life and children’s life in Malawi that would include games, the local language of Chichewa, the geography, animals and food.  For others who might like to hear her journey of becoming a female hip-hop artist and activist Mwai will offer a single session. 

Patti and Mwai want to thank you for contributing and sharing this with others.  The course starts on April 9th. CAN WE DO THIS IN 3 DAYS.. You can send email transfers to insightintegrator@gmail.com and 100% will go towards the course.