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Fearless Fighter

Fearless Fighter

Vera Chirwa | Malcolm Smart


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Vera Chirwa's story is one of betrayal, imprisonment, torture and exile. Yet it is also a story of hope, inspiration and extraordinary bravery. Born in Malawi under British colonial rule, even as a child she was aware of the injustice meted out to her as an African and a girl. While struggling for her education, she met and fell in love with Orton Chirwa, a charismatic teacher and activist. From then on their fates became intertwined with the politics of their country after independence. As a campaigner, politician, lawyer, wife and mother, Chirwa has left an indelible mark on Malawian politics. Her life embodies African struggles against colonialism and corruption. In Fearless Fighter Chirwa talks about her past with immense courage and humour. This powerful and moving book celebrates her achievements and calls for greater awareness of the risks faced by human rights defenders everywhere.
Vera Mlangazua Chirwa was born in Malawi (then Nyasaland) in 1932. Unusually for a girl in Africa at the time, her parents allowed her to be sent to school in Livingstonia and Blantyre. Shortly after leaving school she met Orton Chirwa, a teacher and political campaigner. They married in 1951. Angered by the institutional racism and discrimination in the country, Vera and Orton fought for independence and were founding members of the Malawi Congress Party in 1959. Vera became a leading figure in the League of Malawi Women and continued her education and training to become Malawi's first female lawyer, whilst looking after the couple's children. When the country gained independence in 1961, Orton Chirwa was minister of justice in the new government. In the early years of independence, however, factions emerged around the president and the Chirwas suffered years of exile and detention without trial. Following her release from prison in 1993, as a result of major international campaigns and shortly after Orton's death in custody under suspicious circumstances, Vera Chirwa became a leading voice campaigning for human rights and civil society in Africa.
'She has faced every obstacle, every threat, every setback with courage and determination, and with faith that what she is doing is right...she is a remarkable person and hers is a remarkable story' Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International 'Vera Chirwa's book is a pleasure as well as an education to read.' Guy Arnold, North South 'Beautifully and intelligently written, giving an introduction to Malawi's cultural and political history that is rarely heard.' Jenny Bowie, Chartist

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Contents vii
Acknowledgements viii
Foreword by Malcolm Smart ix
1. A Family of Politicians 1
2. Against an Apartheid Federation 16
3. Independence 41
4. The Cabinet Crisis 60
5. Exile 78
6. We Have Got You Today 88
7. The Will to Live 108
8. Back in Civil Society 139
9. Human Rights at the Fingertips 150
10. Democracy under Threat 166
11. Human Rights Commissioner 184
12. The Power to Forgive 194
Afterword by Morten Kjærum 202
Index 204