Mavens: How Candice Chirwa is Schoolin’ Life

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Millennial Maverick, 22-year-old Candice Chirwa has become a name worth knowing in the academic and social entrepreneurial space.

As she navigates through her early twenties, the motivational speaker and Masters Student is taking the world by storm and adding her own special brand of “black girl magic” to resolving and creating awareness to gender issues worldwide.

“I am a Feminist. Social Scientist. Lover of Liberty and Puns. I am bubbly, confident, charismatic and friendly. I love helping people. I fight for others better than I fight for myself, and that has cultivated my spirit for being a humanitarian and wanting to be involved within International Relations to advocate for the experiences of women within the global system. I love to read books especially books written by African authors and I absolutely love to drink coffee in cafes,” she describes herself.

Women issues constitute 52% of the world’s population and yet a normal bodily function such as menstruation commonly interrupts women’s or girls ability to participate in daily activities is a problem long overdue for addressing!

But who is Candice Chirwa and why should you care to get to know this young phenomenal Black woman? Firstly, she has made quite the mark as an academic after being at university for almost 5 years and now as a master’s student, pursuing her thesis exploring the contribution of the international human rights system (treaties and documents) to investigate the extent to which menstruation is addressed by organisations such as the United Nations. “Women issues constitute 52% of the world’s population and yet a normal bodily function such as menstruation commonly interrupts women’s or girls ability to participate in daily activities is a problem long overdue for addressing,” she said.

Candice said being an academic woman in the space she finds herself has not been an easy ride but one of the most rewarding. “In the space of academia, I think it’s important for me to open the doors of opportunity, learning and creating and to ensure it is to be a safe space – especially for black womxn academics. I have faced hardship this year doing my Masters. I have had difficulty in having my topic accepted especially by male academics. And so, having my topic accepted and writing a thesis on something that would not be considered conventional within International Relations, not only makes me happy, but I at least know that womxn who come after me can write topics that they deem worthy to be read and to exist within these spaces.

I want to further push this agenda within the global system to ensure that “Third World Women” experiences have a space within the international system. It’s tiring and rewarding but tiring at the same time; you are left with responsibilities of not only having to create a thesis that will be criticized by other academics, but you also must prove yourself moreover because you’re a young academic woman. You must constantly reiterate as to why your research topic is valid if you are writing a topic that doesn’t deem valid within academia. It’s a constant war of proving yourself to others and fighting your own demon called self-doubt,” Candice said.

I want the young girl child to be able to go to school and fulfill her goals without facing systematic obstacles.

“Being at the University of Witwatersrand and being surrounded by academics and scholars has inspired me to not only be an academic but also pursue social entrepreneurship in that I want to provide critical thinking skills to children. Wits has inspired me to start my own NGO that focuses on curating critical thinking to children,” she added.

Candice has a lot to be proud of, not only for her academic and social contribution to society and South Africa at large but also achieving her dream of working for the United Nations and getting to speak to fellow young women on crucial topics.

“Last year my dream came true. I worked for the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) as a junior consultant. That opportunity changed my perspective on life. Finally, being invited by Oprah Winfrey’s School this year to be a keynote speaker. Speaking to 300+ girls about entrepreneurship and the importance of youth politics was a great achievement. I know I was meant to inspire the girls in my speech, but those passionate and smart girls honestly inspired me. And I will always cherish that experience and will use their passion as a motivation in my life,” she said.

Photo: Provided

And this young Black phenomenal woman is not even half way with breaking boundaries and chartering new waters. “I see myself potentially working for a Human Rights Organisation as well as running my NGO. I want to be known as author of my upcoming children’s book and I hope that my NGO will be successful in that children and parents will receive the book in a positive manner,” she said.

When asked who or what inspires her, Candice simply answered, “Strangely enough, injustices that occur in the world. I want to work in the field that provides the vulnerable population the ability and capacity to empower, fight and protect themselves. I want the young girl child to be able to go to school and fulfill her goals without facing systematic obstacles. So, I wake up every day motivating myself to work hard to enable myself to work hard for other,” she said.

“In terms of WHO inspires me: my sister. She has been and continues to be the greatest pillar of strength and support. She always knows how to say the right things when I’m going through the obstacles in my life. She wants the best for me and always ensures that I am always doing the best I can in everything I strive to do. I will one day take my sister on the best vacation of her life, as she has always taken me on the best vacations,” she continued.

Photo: Kayleen Morgan

There is nothing like the power and bond of sisterhood. But there is no love than the one you have for yourself and Candice has come to value and cherish the relationship she has with her herself.

“Don’t worry about the applause. Just do you boo. Give yourself the space, time and permission to do things that aren’t going to directly improve your life. Don’t feel like you always need to be efficient. Don’t worry if it doesn’t always seem like you’re making progress. You’re not a human doing, you’re a human being. It’s okay to just be. Let yourself be stupid happy. You will realize that happiness is inside of you, not outside. It is okay for you to be ridiculously, stupidly, freakishly, happy. You are a phenomenal black woman, Candice who is ready to take on the world. You are bold. You are brave. You are BIG and that’s okay. Can’t wait to see you shine, Mo’Ghel. Kind Regards – Your future self,” she said she would tell her 16-year-old self.

Even at 22-years-old, Candice is wise beyond her years and very self-aware. “My worst fear is failing. Not just in school but in life. I think I am extremely hard on myself on a day-to-day basis that I constantly feel that I need to be busy doing something because if I am doing nothing, I feel that I am not contributing to my life’s journey which is ultimately wanting to cultivate a better society for young children especially the girl child. My greatest trait – that would be my love for humanity. I am always willing to help no matter what,” she said.

You know what they say, all work and no fun can make you a dull girl. However, this is not the case in Candice’s life. She admits to binging on a lot of TV series it should be considered a crime. But, she still finds the time to work whilst watching series. “Damn Netflix,” she cursed.

Photo: Provided

Candice is aware of not only herself, but her privilege and position is life and believes that being a black woman adds greater flavor to the mix. “It is about having the opportunity to make choices and have these choices respected. To be a black womxn for me means allowing the womxn the freedom to choose the life they want to live, and to go ahead and live it. But it’s also about dismantling the violent structures that don’t allow us to be free. To ensure that we occupy spaces in which are considered to be “male spaces” and still know our worth as black womxn. Despite it all, the violence, the trauma, the patriarchy – we still stand. We continue to multiply and that is very important,” she said.

“I think my legacy will be that of a reading one – in which any individual from any walk of life is able to read and critically think of life. I think my legacy will be that of an inspiring one – I hope,” she concluded.

While Candice works hard to change the world one project, thesis and talk at a time, on a typical day you will find her consulting with her students that she tutors, reading a lot of journals, articles, books. TYPING. Drinking coffee. Marking her students work. TYPING SOME MORE. And if she is lucky –  she tries to catch the sunset if it’s been a long day. And then gets back to typing.

We have no doubt that Candice Chirwa is definitely an influential powerhouse in the making and one to watch as she reaches for the stars and beyond.

Photo: Provided