NTHANDA MANDUWI MAXIMIZING THE DIGITAL AGE
What a great time to be creative in Malawi right now, these are the sentiments Nthanda Manduwi, an entrepreneur, blogger/influencer and a public officer. As much as opportunities seem limited from the outset, the benefits of technology is everything around us is going digital, a development that is pushing 25 year-old Nthanda to try master the creative industry. Media gurus and experts still cannot mentor us correctly because the rapid evolution of technology and media is just as new to them as it is to any other person in Malawi right now. As an influencer, Nthanda has had to learn a lot about creating engaging content whilst juggling her career as a public officer and an entrepreneur working within the digital age.
Nthanda owns and runs By Ntha Media, a digital creative organization that focuses on creating engaging media, championing social and development causes. She also owns a lifestyle blog where she shares her personal experiences in the world of travel, wellness, DIY and fashion to name a few. Her journey of working to turn her dreams into reality up to this point has been full of life-changing lessons and challenges which continue to shape her into an unapologetic go-getter.
Sixteen year old Nthanda was bullied through secondary school and lost a friend during that time period, experiences that still weigh heavy on her heart. Her next step to pursuing a university degree, Bachelor of Social Science with a double major in Economics and Demography, at Chancellor College of Malawi were stalled for two years which led to her staying at home for a year, battling depression. Eighteen year old Nthanda, finally at university and in a relationship with her first boyfriend, had the stereotypical dreams of the common narrative outlined for some young females in Malawian culture which are: get educated, get married, have kids and a decent job.
“My relationship with my then boyfriend was not working out and it was depressing me so I started thinking that having a baby would be the thing that would make us last forever,” Nthanda recalls. She says it has taken years of unlearning those deeply held beliefs for her to see life from a different perspective. Yes, she would love to get married and have children at some point but those are things she is no longer chasing after.
“I have an amazing personal life and life partner so I will be happy when those things happen but now that I know my purpose is so much more than marriage and children, my focus is on my career, helping people and doing as much as I can for the world around me,” says Nthanda. Seeing other women living their lives candidly, entirely different from societal norms gave her the push she needed to see that as a woman you can decide whoever you wanted to be.She believes that as more women pursue their dreams they give others, especially young girls, the power to think of themselves in a greater light with bigger aspirations.
After losing close friends at a young age, Nthanda’s outlook on life and some of its biggest lessons play a significant role in her work ethic. “I saw how short-lived their lives were with all the visions and dreams they had. It made realize that I have a limited amount of time I should make the best of by living as fully as I can whilst chasing those dreams and enjoying the process,” Nthanda says.
“I have always loved stories and I consider myself to be a creative and talented storyteller. Storytelling is an art-form not everybody is skilled at,” Nthanda says, determined to develop herself further and to learn about the different modes of storytelling.
After applying to over a 100 jobs, it was almost a year later when she received a call back for the public officer position she had applied for with her father’s encouragement. During that waiting period, she had given up on employment prospects and was focusing on building up her media company. After successfully completing the interviews for the position, Nthanda found herself settling into her new role as a public officer, a job that is teaching her how to balance between her career and building up her empire. Her typical working day is divided into 12 hours dedicated to work and the remaining hours to sleep and other activities in line with her goals.
“It is quite hectic but I focus on what I need to deliver at work during work hours, my lunchtime is dedicated to rushing to meetings and making it back in the office to finish work by 5 pm only to switch to my home office to catch up on my media work,” Nthanda adds. In Nthanda’s experience, after reaching a point where she was struggling financially as a creative, she has found that having a job has given her media dreams a huge push towards the right direction. It has also earned her respect from people around her who view creatives as simply being dependent on others for sustenance as they pursue their dreams, by showing them creatives can excel at their craft and use their day jobs to build their hustles into successful businesses.
“I have met young people who thank me for showing them a world of possibilities of what they can be and what they can do,” she says. She hopes to embody the kind of person that lives her truth in public rather than one that lacks empathy towards herself and others. Through her media work, she hopes to use the creativity and voices of young people to tell stories which champion policy changes that will lead to better livelihoods for people from various communities in society, including people living with HIV to the LGBTQ community.
“One of the biggest challenges to championing policy is creating empathy in other people,” Nthanda says. She believes we need to encourage one another to use our voices and to speak up using each one of own personal talents and strengths to get transformative messages across. Her main focus in her writing as a storyteller is to humanise stories so people see the human being behind circumstances.
“I choose to focus on people who appreciate the work I do rather than the negative,” Nthanda says. “There is a lot of love in the world but we often focus more on the negativity so I decided to commit myself to being love in everything I do and whoever I interact with even when my own values don’t align with other people’s.”
With phones in hand, direct messages pouring into our inboxes as we use our phones for various purposes which include studying, business or entertaining ourselves through global media platforms such as Youtube, Pinterest, Netflix; the digital age we are in challenges us to create engaging African digital content that will give people reason enough to engage repeatedly with our channels and culture. Nthanda Manduwi is getting her house in order for when the rest of the world comes knocking at our doors for authentic, Malawian digital content be it in the arena of travel, wellness or championing social causes.