Dear WLA Members,

It is truly humbling to have been elected to serve as the President of this Association. I still recall how excited I was to participate in the meetings and activities of WLA when I was first called to the bar. It was an honour then. It remains an honour now. I thank you for entrusting me with this role, and I pledge to serve you to the best of my abilities. Firstly I thank the former leadership for taking the lead in helping to revive WLA and enabling this transition.

I want to see WLA strengthened and united in achieving our stated aims and objectives, and particularly to see it become an organisation that is professionally and personally rewarding to its members. When I first joined you could count the number of female lawyers there were in Malawi. Now over 126 women have completed the WLA registration survey! We are a young association – 82% are between the ages 21-39. Almost all of our members, 94%, are employed and are working full time. We have the numbers and certainly the capacity to build a strong, relevant and formidable institution.

The newly elected executive committee has spent a significant amount of time discussing and planning on the best way to keep the Association relevant to its members and make WLA work. In the coming weeks members will receive a series of emails from WLA leadership, there are a few key steps that we need to take as an organization and it is my sincere hope that we can count on you. Here is just a snippet of what is in store for us and what will be required of you:

  1. Invoices for WLA membership fees! I urge you to pay your annual subscription – and any additional pledges you made to help get the Association back on its feet. We have started off the year with grand dreams and an empty kitty. Members who have subscribed by paying the annual fee will be eligible for a number of benefits including: discounted or waived fees for trainings and social events; notifications of job/publishing/travel opportunities; first consideration when there are sponsored trips; and being featured in the online member directory among others.
  2. Invitation to the chapter meeting for the election of the WLA Chapters leadership. The Association is only as strong as its membership and the Chapters are the easiest way to keep connected with other members and to participate in WLA professional and social activities. Chapters are expected to meet and elect new leadership within the next two weeks. Young women are particularly encouraged to come forward and stand for office or vote in new leadership.
  3. Publication of the WLA Calendar of Events! There are a series of events that are in the works – the first will be a “Know your Association” session followed by a women’s and children’s rights training session in preparation for our first series of legal clinics! We are also planning a social event to foster networking in a more relaxed environment. Women in the Lilongwe Chapter have already started meeting and training for netball social matches, we hope that the Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu Chapters will soon follow suite and keep the rest of the members abreast of the activities – especially via social media! Post your pictures on the WLA Facebook Page, follow and tag @WLAMalawi on Twitter.  Update members on the whatsapp group (if you haven’t been added to the whatsapp group send a request via email
  4. Be a mentor, be a mentee – you will also receive a really brief survey to find out who is interested in being a mentor or being mentored and commence a structured process of matching people up for a unique and enriching mentorship experience. This project promises to be an excellent means for bringing back the invaluable learning and leadership exchanges between senior members of the Association and the incredible (and rapidly growing) community of young lawyers!

Our current priorities include re-establishing (and maintaining) a secretariat and building up strong foundation through membership, member engagement, resource mobilisation, continuing legal education, mentorship, networking, partnership building and SERVICE. I have such vivid memories of WLA being synonymous with service for the most vulnerable members of Malawian society – women and children. This call to service led to the establishment of WLA and is a prominent aspect for the continuing relevance of the association, not just to its members but to the broader Malawian society.

WLA membership should have a clear and definitive impact on our personal and professional lives, it should matter to us and to those around us. I am so excited to be a part of this new chapter in the Association’s story and I look forward to a vibrant WLA!

Best wishes to you all for this year.

Sarai Chisala-Tempelhoff

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