Celebrating Malawi Independence Day

by ACT

  • Posted on July 5, 2019

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Charting its history from the Maravi Empire

Malawi, known as “the warm heart of Africa” because of its friendly people, gained independence from the United Kingdom on the 5th July 1964. Formerly known as Nyasaland, this small African nation has to its name one of the continents’ most impactful histories.

The Kingdom of Maravi was established around 1500. A century later the united and stable Kingdom under its native ruler had its first encounter with Europeans. —- Portuguese traders and sailors had sailed round the cape to the Indian Ocean and arrived in Mozambique from where they travelled inland to Maravi Kingdom. They introduced maize to the Maravi who in turn traded slaves to the Portuguese. But by 1700 the kingdom had begun to disintegrate and split into ethnic groups, possibly as a result of kidnapping of people for the slave trade. By 1800 the Arabs had entered into the trade, enslaving nearly 20,000 natives.

British Central African Protectorate

In 1891 the British Central Africa Protectorate was established, incorporated the disintegrated kingdom and renamed it the Protectorate of Nyasaland in 1907. Nyasaland was no stranger to the various uprisings against British rule that were commonplace in the British Empire during the First World War (WWI). Pastor John Chilembwe led an uprising in 1915 with the goal of an independent Nyasaland and to stop recruitment of natives by the British for WWI because of his belief in Christian pacifism. The rebellion failed. In 1944, the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) was established to promote a pathway of determining the future of the country away from being a colony of the British Empire. Dr Hastings Banda became the leader of NAC in 1958 and later Malawi’s first President. The NAC later became the Malawi Congress Party. In 1953 the country was merged into a larger state as a constituent part of a federal semi-dominion comprising of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi), The Federation was dominated by white minority rule and by Southern Rhodesia up until 1964 when Malawi became independent and Southern Rhodesia declared unilateral independence.



Though the country gained independence from the British Empire on 6th July 1964, the country under President Banda became a one-party dictatorship. He was anti-communist who sought relations with apartheid South Africa and Portuguese Mozambique. Among the many authoritarian laws atypical of post colonial dictators in East Africa, Banda restricted the type of clothing women could wear and men were not allowed to have hair below the collar. Only churches sanctioned by the government could operate. Certain religious group such as the Jehovah’s Witness were banned. Education was limited to only the children of government officials. The vast majority who lived in rural areas had no schools and could not receive education. In 1993 the country voted overwhelmingly in favour of introducing multi-party democracy via a referendum and in 1994, Banda was defeated in the country’s first democratic election by Bakili Muluzi, President of Malawi from 1994-2004.

ACT in Malawi

ACT began working in Malawi in 2007, educating orphans and disadvantaged children and empowering poor widows to generate income so that they can support their families, mainly in Phalombe and Mulanje districts in the Southern region. Our aim is to enrich the community which is why we are partnering with Nyezerera Primary School, the catchment school for nearly four thousand pupils in the Nyerere community. We have carried out sanitation projects and working with the school in improving sanitation and water projects, including the construction of toilet facilities for girls. Our Ulemu Project (Ulemu is Chichewa word for dignity) is counselling girls in menstrual health hygiene and providing reusable sanitary pads to the girls. Our work among widows includes training and equipping them with materials to make the reusable pads and sanitary towels which is distributed to school girls and which they also sell to generate income.  Our aim is to help to break the cycle of poverty in the community.

We congratulate Malawi on this anniversary of its independence. Join with us and support our effort to give young girls in rural Malawi the opportunity of education and dignity so that they can contribute to the development of their lovely nation.

To find out more about our Ulemu Project in Malawi click here.

To sponsor an orphan or disadvantaged child with ACT click here.

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