The words that teachers at African Leadership Academy use to describe their former student Ellen Chilemba have one thing in common; they all denote success. And once again, Ellen has proven them right after being named one of Glamour’s 2017 College Women of the Year and winning a grand prize of $20,000 in recognition of her work as
founder and manager of Tiwale, a community based organization that she founded at age 18. Tiwale (which means ‘Let us shine’) was a result of Ellen’s realization of the disparities in her community that led to women missing out on education and small business loan opportunities. Today, with the help of her staff of 12, Tiwale uplifts Malawian women through leadership workshops, micro-loans, vocation skills training and education grants. To date, her organization has helped 40 women launch their own businesses, while another 60 have learned to tie-dye and sew,
ensuring that Tiwale tapestries and totes sell around the world.
Born and raised in Malawi, Ellen came to ALA in 2010 and quickly blossomed to be one of the continent’s most promising and active social entrepreneurs. Her passions span numerous disciplines and industries, from digital marketing, to writing, to clay sculpting. Ellen has now graduated from Mount Holyoke College in the US with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. She adds her latest laurel to previous accolades such as being named on Forbes’ ‘Africa’s 30 under 30’ list in 2015 and being a recipient of Bono’s We Are Family Foundation Humanitarian Award the following year.
Ellen’s dedication to entrepreneurship and development work won’t end there. With her $20,000 prize money from Glamour, she aims to complete building a center that will support 200 women in Mtsiliza, an under-resourced village in the capital of Malawi. The center will provide women with secondary school education classes and workshops, as well as building what will house the community’s first library. Once the center is complete, Ellen plans on using the proceeds from sales of their cloth to maintain the space.