AMANDLA! WOMEN TO WATCH EDITION

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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.

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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.

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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.