AMANDLA! WOMEN TO WATCH EDITION
Tadala Peggy Chinkwezule
Legal Services Manager, AHL GROUP PLC
Why did you decide to study law?
I was inspired to study law by observing the injustices, inequality and levels of poverty of this world, and more especially Malawi. I nurtured an ambition to study law from a very young age. I knew that law would be the tool that I could use to make an impact and contribute to my country and globally. My sense of justice was heightened when as a teenager I requested a guard and was allowed to enter a courtroom in the northern part of Malawi. I believe that was moment of reckoning that I would without a doubt study law.
What is your proudest professional moment thus far?
As former President of Women Lawyers Association (Malawi), I was invited for the groundbreaking of a women's shelter by the current leadership of WLA. This was a concept developed by WLA during my tenure and we accessed funding, £20,000.00, from Nick Webber Trust (UK). This entailed the vision being realized.
Looking back, what is one decision/action you would have done differently?
I look back and I would not have done any professional action differently. For those that I succeeded I celebrated, for those actions that failed, I learnt lessons that have built me professionally. I learn from my mistakes and view them as opportunities to do better next time.
Share some major professional challenges you have faced, or continue to face as a woman in law.
One professional challenge I have personally faced is unconscious bias and being undermined. This is attributed to the fact that I am a woman thus I would not be able to undertake certain roles or work. This is further compounded by the fact that age-wise I am relatively young as I am only 33, despite that my professional experience is over 10 years. A clear example is when I run for President of Malawi Law Society in 2019 and 2021, of which I both lost, I had several men personally and directly tell me that they would not vote for a woman to lead the organisation especially someone who is young and would not understand the intricacies of legal practice. However, I have to acknowledge that despite the few that are unconsciously bias, I have had many men and women who have been very supportive in my career progression.
What are some practical strategies for survival in the legal profession?
Survival strategies in the legal profession vary from one lawyer to another be it male or female. Some strategies I use include having mentors to consult on diverse professional matters; ensuring I remain relevant in the legal profession by writing articles, volunteering in different roles. At times as a young woman lawyer, I have had to respectfully and boldly articulate my professional expertise to assure those uncertain about my professional skills that I am capable. Further, I engage with colleagues on the law in relation to current affairs. Additionally, I ensure that I build networks widely and not only amongst lawyers. I reading widely to develop a comprehensive worldview. Another, important strategy I utilise is to wind down occasionally; the workload as lawyers is always extensive; thus the need of relaxing away from the law books is essential and provides time for one to spend with family and friends.