Chanju Mwanza (LHS 2012) is working as an Education and Climate Change Policy and Advocacy Advisor for a charity that works to advance children’s rights and equality for girls around the world.
Since finishing school, Chanju has had a varied career path, ultimately motivated by working on issues that she cares about. She has worked as a content creator for a feminist organisation, writing predominantly about social justice and racial equality in the UK. After university, she also launched the Zambian Narratives project which aims to create bilingual culturally relevant children’s books in Zambia’s seven national languages.
Read more about Chanju in this questionnaire and find out who her Woman of the Week would be.
Do you have any standout memories from your time at LHS?
My favourite memories in LHS revolve around the friendships that I made – some of which are my closest friendships today!
Aside from my friendships, one of my standout moments would be taking part in a regional fashion show – and making outfits out of recycled fabrics in our textile classes. We made a dress out of recycled ties – and would talk about it for years to come!
How did your time at LHS help you personally and with your career?
My time at LHS helped me to build resilience and confidence that I would always be able to push myself to do the best I can. I consolidated my love for languages there – especially whilst on the French trip in Year 9! I eventually went on to study French and Spanish at University.
What did you do after LHS?
I left LHS after year 11 and went on to a sixth form college where I took four A-Levels: French, Spanish, English Literature and Maths. I then went straight on to study French and Spanish at University College London for four years, which included a year abroad living in Madrid and Paris.
How did LHS support you with your above decision?
Ultimately it was my sixth form college that supported me in choosing the final course and university, however, LHS supported me through the GCSE and A-Level selection process that helped me choose French and Spanish. I think I was also exposed to a range of university options whilst at LHS which will have helped me narrow down my options.
Can you explain your career path – how did you get to where you are today?
My career path is quite varied, though the common thread is that I have almost always been motivated by working on issues that I care about the most.
Throughout university, I started working as a writer and content creator for a feminist organisation, where I predominantly wrote articles about social justice and racial equality in the UK. I also had the opportunity to host a ‘Melanin Takeover’ podcast which celebrated Black women who were doing amazing things across the UK. After University, I launched the Zambian Narratives project which aims to create bilingual culturally relevant children’s books in Zambia’s seven national languages. I launched the project in Lusaka, Zambia, and held workshops with children about story writing and storytelling. Since then, my books have been sold globally, with many parents across the diaspora sharing positive feedback about having a resource where children can see themselves – and their culture – represented.
Alongside the project I needed to earn a salary! Straight out of University I did an internship at the Department for International Trade, before I took on a graduate role in Corporate Communications. I then moved on to work on equalities policy in the Cabinet Office – which the Government’s central department. In my final year at the Cabinet Office, I went back to university and studied a master’s degree in Education, Gender and International Development. And then we get to today – I’m now working as an Education and Climate Change Policy and Advocacy Advisor for a charity that works to advance children’s rights and equality for girls around the world.
What are your career highlights:
My career highlight would definitely be launching the children’s books, even if it’s outside my normal 9-5!
What have you done outside of your career that you are most proud of?
I’m most proud of my work with the books and hosting workshops with children and young people in storytelling and story-writing. It’s great to see children get inspired to write their own stories and use their own voices to create something beautiful!
Do you have any life experiences that standout?
Swimming out on top of the Victoria Falls in Zambia – I would recommend it! Though it is pretty scary when you look down at all the water thundering below!
What is something that you would want your younger LHS student self to know?
The most important thing in life is the people around you and building your community. And you will find your people!
What is your top career advice?
My top career advice would be to find a mentor, or someone who inspires you, to help be a sounding board as you navigate your career. Sometimes you might think you really want to go into a specific job or sector but find out later down the line that it’s not for you. And that’s okay! A career can mean many things and be different things – there’s no one size fits all approach, and you need to do what works best for you. So having someone with a little more experience who can help you navigate all these twists and turns is really great.
Do you have any life advice or wisdom to share?
Remember that life in LHS is like a bubble. Make sure that you expose yourself to different worlds, different realities, different experiences outside of that bubble. And take the time to listen to other lived experiences and perspectives!
Is there anything that you would have done differently?
I wish I didn’t worry so much while I was at school – I definitely used to wish the time away and wanted to fast forward to university. It’s important to savour every single moment and day – the good and the bad, and I really wish I did that more!
Who is your woman of the week?
My woman of the week is my mum. She’s amazing! And she shows me each day what it means to be a more confident, bold, and courageous. She shows me that you can take risks at any point in your career, and that you should always stand up for what’s right in all you do.