Growing up one of six siblings in Blantyre, Malawi, Enelless Pemba learned early on that if she wanted something, she would have to get it herself.
“I wanted to do everything boys did,” Enelless says. “I wanted to play chess, to play volleyball.”
In grade school, Enelless won an award for one of her short stories; the tale, the details of which she has now forgotten, was about “being free.”
It was during those same years that the Malawian state was undergoing a historic transformation, shifting from a one-party system to a multi-party democracy.
“I wanted to know who this new president was whom everyone said was coming to power,” Enelless says. “I wanted to be the one to explain to my friends what was happening in the country.”
Not long after, Enelless attended a talk by Malawian human rights activist Seodi White, one on the critical role women can play in shaping the direction of the country.
“I remember sitting in the audience and feeling inspired by her work,” Enelless says. “She told us that ‘women can do anything men can do,’ and I thought to myself, ‘I want to be just like her.’”
Enelless, now an arts and crafts entrepreneur and founder of the Anthu Aluso initiative, has done just that. Her initiative, which provides economic security for women in need, trains and equips women to create a sustainable market for their products.
And Enelless’ interest in civic engagement hasn’t faltered, especially in years past — years in which the country’s youth increasingly attend rallies and actively register but don’t, in the end, cast their ballots.
“In Malawi, voter registration cards act as IDs for youth,” Enelless says. “So many register but never make it to the polls.”
This is compounded by long lines and extended wait times at polling stations, Enelless explains.
“The youth know that it’s important but don’t — on the whole — take that final, most important step.”
To counter this, Enelless is using her artwork to design posters and other media in conjunction with a nationwide campaign aimed at encouraging the youth to vote in the country’s general elections.
“If the youth, who are in the majority in Malawi, got involved in politics, things would change,” Enelless says. “The future is in their hands.”
In her work to encourage young and first-time voters to make it to the polls, though, Enelless stresses the need for peaceful elections — a process that would decide the country’s direction in a free and fair manner.
“In a perfect world, a friend supporting a different party is still your friend,” Enelless adds. “You would still smile at them; you would still see peace.”
Enelless Pemba is a virtual artist, founder of the Anthu Aluso initiative and a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow. The Anthu Aluso initiative provides economic security for women in need by training them and creating a sustainable market for their products. Enelless uses her experience in arts as a springboard to her role as a social entrepreneur.
Interested in Enelless’ work? Visit our #YALIVotes page to learn more about elections and how you can make your voice heard.