About the Author
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. Vera continued her education, training to become Malawi's first female lawyer, whilst looking after the couple's children and working in the Ministry of Land. Angered by the institutional racism and discrimination in the country Vera and Orton were founding members of the Malawi Congress Party in 1959, and Vera led the League of Malawi Women. When the country gained independence in 1961, Orton Chirwa was a senior figure 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 1991, as a result of major international campaigns, she became a leading voice campaigning for human rights and civil society in Africa. Vera Chirwa is a lawyer and politician. She was the first Malawian woman ever to qualify as a lawyer and a founding member of the League of Malawi Women. After suffering nine years of detention without trial, she became a leading voice campaigning for human rights and civil society in Africa.