Malawi: Helen Munthali

I have done my part. If I die today, I believe I have left a legacy that can be carried on to greater heights.

— Helen Munthali

Helen Munthali is the executive director of Tovwirane HIV/Aids Organisation, based in Mzimba in the northern part of Malawi. She was born in 1946 in Nazala Village near the country’s commercial city of Blantyre to a Malawian mother and an Indian father. Tovwirane ("Let’s help each other") was launched in 1993. Since then it has assisted thousands of people infected and affected by HIV/Aids. It offers orphan care, counseling of people living with HIV/Aids and their caretakers through outreach campaigns and community-based projects.

Helen's life reads like the script of a best-selling novel. Soon after she was born, her father left her mother. She was later rejected by her stepfather because she was colored, and raised by her grandmother. After obtaining her Cambridge School Certificate at the age of 18, she succumbed to family pressure to get married. She raised her 11 children single-handedly after her husband’s death in 1986. Then, her brother-in-law attempted to evict her from her matrimonial home and inherit the property. She had gained resilience at an early age. “I refused and worked tirelessly to bring up my children. Today they are respected personalities working in top government positions and international organizations,” she says proudly. She formed the Mzimba Anti-Aids Support in 1993. “I watched helplessly as my close friends died. I had to do something.” The organization later changed its name to Tovwirane HIV/Aids Organisation. Helen has dealt with suspicion, stigma and discrimination including from churches, as she pursued the Tovwirane mission. To date, Tovwirane has assisted over 5000 volunteers in home-based care, 560 people living with HIV/Aids and over 7000 orphans. Through its outreach campaign, Tovwirane has initiated over 20 community projects to support the poor and established a resource center with over 10,000 books and resource material with an average readership of about 800 per month. Tovwirane is recognized as a model in sub-Saharan Africa.

Tovwirane HIV/Aids Organisation