Home The EntrepreneurInterview Cynthia Mbamalu: Empowering women to shine inspires belief in others’ potential to shine too

Cynthia Mbamalu: Empowering women to shine inspires belief in others’ potential to shine too

by Akinruli Tolulope

Cynthia Mbamalu, an ardent advocate for human and gender rights and a seasoned development practitioner, has carved a distinguished path in the realm of law and activism. Armed with a legal background and an LLM in Comparative Constitutional Law from the prestigious Central European University (CEU), her expertise encompasses a multifaceted array of domains, including but not limited to, human and women’s rights advocacy, constitution building, elections, and the nurturing of inclusive political leadership, Entrepreneurng.com

A co-founder and the Director of Programmes at Yiaga Africa, Mbamalu’s trajectory spans over a remarkable 16 years, during which her endeavors have consistently revolved around the support and nurturing of sustainable democracies, the propagation of political inclusivity, the preservation of electoral integrity, and the tireless championing of human rights causes. Her luminous contributions have manifested through multifarious mediums, ranging from her instrumental leadership in diverse election observation missions to her current pivotal role at the helm of the tech-savvy #WatchingTheVote initiative, a groundbreaking project that ingeniously harnesses data and technology to bolster and safeguard electoral integrity.

Mbamalu’s imprint is indelibly etched within the corridors of advocacy, and her tenacious efforts were integral in the advocacy drive that culminated in the adoption of Nigeria’s Electoral Act of 2022. Moreover, her dedication extends to engaging the intricate processes of constitutional amendment with a profound emphasis on promoting gender sensitivity, thereby fortifying the foundations of an equitable society, Cynthia Mbamalu 

Stepping beyond the conventional boundaries of activism, Mbamalu has left her distinct imprint on transformative initiatives. A driving force behind the Not-Too-Young-To-Run movement, a potent proponent of the Ready-to-Run campaign, she adroitly navigates a plethora of roles. It is noteworthy that her vision extends towards mentoring and supporting young individuals, and she manages a Community Organising Programme that casts its nurturing wings over the young demographic in West Africa.

In a bid to foster enriched discourse on democracy and development from an engendered perspective, Mbamalu launched the ‘The Unamplified Podcast,’ thereby spotlighting her foresight in leveraging innovative mediums for meaningful conversations, Cynthia Mbamalu

Mbamalu’s pursuit of knowledge knows no bounds, with her impressive credentials encompassing an eclectic array of educational milestones, including her tenure at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Central European University. In a candid interview, she delves into her journey, outlining her fervent commitment to empowering young minds, particularly women, in their nascent forays into electoral landscapes and leadership realms, Cynthia Mbamalu 

Her journey commenced during her formative years at the University of Jos, where her zest for change led her to volunteer at the Youth Friendly Centre, spearheading awareness campaigns on sexual and reproductive health. A defining juncture arrived in her second year, as she, alongside like-minded colleagues, embarked on the pioneering journey of founding Yiaga Africa. The organization, initially christened Youth Action Initiative Africa, evolved into a formidable civil society entity, serving as a stalwart for the advancement of sustainable democracy and developmental paradigms across the African continent.

The nascent stages of her career involved a steep learning curve, replete with hands-on experiences. From orchestrating ‘Democracy Dialogues’ at the university to cultivating human rights clubs and collaboratively engaging international partners and stakeholders, Mbamalu’s trajectory took on a discernible trajectory. A pivotal year marked her graduation from the university in 2011, concomitant with her induction into the Nigerian Bar. The subsequent year ushered in her initiation into the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), where she was stationed at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). This immersive experience catalyzed her growth, equipping her with a gamut of skills encompassing work planning, project ideation, and active participation in inter-agency meetings, Cynthia Mbamalu

Mbamalu’s involvement in constitutional review and legislative advocacy traces its roots back to 2008, punctuated by her pivotal contributions to the National Youth Dialogues on Constitutional Review and Electoral Reform. A defining milestone emerged in 2009 when she embarked on a journey to engage with the constitutional amendment committees in Nigeria’s National Assembly. This endeavor was underpinned by the resolute demand for the reduction of the minimum age for contesting political office in Nigeria. Despite the initial setback, she persevered, consistently presenting constitutional amendment proposals in subsequent years, Cynthia Mbamalu

The year 2016 witnessed a transformative phase, wherein Mbamalu and her cohorts crystallized the vision of a national movement christened ‘Not-Too-Young-To-Run.’ This groundbreaking movement championed the cause of age reduction for political office contenders and independent candidates. However, this aspiration demanded a robust capacity-building framework to sustain the momentum of constitutional amendment advocacy. Unfazed by the challenge, Mbamalu pursued an Executive Programme on Leadership, Organising, and Action at the Harvard Kennedy School, an endeavor that catalyzed a paradigm shift in capacity-building methodologies. Drawing inspiration from this experience, she skillfully integrated these principles into the ‘Not-Too-Young-To-Run’ campaign, thereby galvanizing the movement towards achieving its constitutional amendment objectives, Cynthia Mbamalu 

Mbamalu’s canvas of achievements is adorned with a vibrant tapestry of engagements. From spearheading the grassroots-level organization of students’ elections at the University of Jos to assuming a pivotal role in the 2011 Nigeria elections as an observer and citizens’ mobilizer, her footprint traverses diverse landscapes. An evocative memory etched in her journey was her leadership of the ‘street citizens engagement’ component of the Voter Education Television show (‘My Vote My Future’) during the 2011 elections. This experience encompassed managing a formidable cohort of approximately 500 observers, a testament to her prowess in organizational leadership, Cynthia Mbamalu 

The contours of Mbamalu’s involvement in election-related endeavors have transcended national boundaries. Her participatory engagements span the United States of America, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Sierra Leone, with her involvement spanning reputable institutions like the Commonwealth Observer Group and EISA observer mission. Not confining herself to mere observation, she extended her support to election management bodies and civil society groups across Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Liberia, thus imprinting her expertise across a diverse spectrum.

Central to Mbamalu’s ethos is her unwavering commitment to human and women’s rights, a stance that reverberates through her role at Yiaga Africa. She fervently believes in spotlighting women at their zenith, a stance underscored by her firm conviction that amplifying women’s successes serves as a potent catalyst to inspire others to scale similar heights. This belief infuses her work at Yiaga Africa, where she artfully wields a gendered lens to shape legislative and policy advocacy, tirelessly championing the cause of women’s representation, protection, and empowerment. This is eloquently evidenced through her efforts in the 9th Assembly and across various states, where she actively advocated for a robust framework to counter sexual and gender-based violence, Cynthia Mbamalu 

Conclusion: Cynthia Mbamalu 

Mbamalu’s commitment to the cause of women’s empowerment is perhaps most vividly encapsulated in the evocative Beating The Odds Book Series. Initiated in 2021/2022, this trailblazing project endeavors to chronicle the narratives of young women who dared to contest in national, state, and local elections. As she embarks on the third edition of this groundbreaking initiative, her vision is firmly fixed on not only spotlighting women’s stories but also sculpting a fertile ground for future electoral endeavours, Cynthia Mbamalu 

Source: The guardian 








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