You might know her as Ellen Chilemba while others know her as DJ Chmba! But how can you miss this lady with fire on her head and in her soul? Red, fiery passion flows through Ellen and you can see this right from her red braided Mohawk, down to her cool dress sense.
Ironically, though she has all the fire in her, on your first meeting with Ellen, she might appear to you as someone quiet, cool, calm and coordinated. But hey! Doesn’t a lioness always look that way? Feline, quiet and graceful until she rises to go for her kill! Then you can see all her strength and power! That’s Ellen for you too, constantly out growing past laurels and moving on to greater things.
“Ellen has participated in the Global Changemakers Annual Youth Summits, Forbes 5 Creative Young Africans, Africa Rising, the Powell Exemplary Leaders, the Commonwealth Youth for Excellence in Development Work, the Grinspoon Entrepreneurial Spirit, the Clinton Global Initiative and MasterCard & Ashoka’s Future Forward Youth Innovations for Employment in Africa.”Unite.un.org
She is also a DJ/Producer and takes care of all social media activities for We Are Family Foundation— a superhero foundation for superhero teenagers.
But who’s Ellen Chilemba and what have Tiwale and Malawian women got to do with her?
It was frustrating and really worrying for Ellen, that she constantly lived with the knowledge that child marriage and lack of formal schooling were serious issues which Malawian girls and women had to face. But then again, what could she do? Ellen saw that throughout Malawi, women wore bright tie & dye clothing which were traditionally made, but most of these dyed clothing were usually imported. Did Ellen catch an idea? Yes! But what if she taught women how to make these kinds of dyed fabric, how would they gather money to start their own businesses? And how would they also get the entrepreneurial and marketing skills to sustain these businesses?
And a light glowed… so she called it Tiwale
At age 17, Ellen started Tiwale (meaning “Let Us Glow” in Chichewa) a micro-finance program that would go on to support women to start businesses and return to school. She began training women to dye-print different fabrics which were sold to designers as garment material, as tapestries and tote bags. With the initial funding which she gathered, the pilot for Tiwale was meant for only 10 women, however, on the first meeting 150 women showed up. Ellen must’ve been blown away!
In December of 2017, Ellen and her team opened up Tiwale’s women and girls’ center which allows them to host the workshops they already offer, in a clean and sheltered space, while also affording them the opportunity to expand on Tiwale’s skills training programs which include reading, writing, tie-dying, sewing, cooking, baking and design school.
A few of Ellen’s accomplishments with Tiwale include
- Researched and analyzed factors contributing to poverty among young women in urban Malawi, through which she proposed an impact solution and secured a US$2000 grant for a pilot project.
- Gathered a team of 8 facilitators, 5 board members, 5 community representatives and 150 participants to launch the pilot.
- Researched, analyzed and launched a vocational skills training program engaging 250 women in fabric dye-printing, sewing and fashion design.
- Marketed products made in fashion design programs fundraising over $30,000 to purchase land and build a women’s center
- Organized micro-loans for 40 women to start businesses: had a 100% repayment rate within a 10-week deadline.
- Built a social media presence of over 30,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter, Medium and Instagram.
- Opened the women’s center and gathered educators in Malawi to launch a day and night school for 500 women.
Well. What do you think? Are you inspired by how Ellen uses her love for arts, Malawi, Africa and love for all humans to paint the world in diverse colors, leaving it a beautiful place for all to live in? Support DJ Chmba and follow her on Instagram and Tiwale.
More stories in our newsletter… Upcoming opportunities in our newsletter… Want some? Yeah! Sign up.