Stanford Names Firelight Partner Social Entrepreneurship Fellow
Stanford University named three African community leaders Social Entrepreneurship Fellows this spring and Firelight partner, Maxwell Matewere, was included. It’s been a few years since the media frenzy surrounding Madonna’s adoption of a child in Malawi. While that storm put the small country on the map for many, the truth is Malawi has had a strong and growing group of child rights leaders for some time now. Maxwell Matewere is one of them. He spoke up during Madonna’s adoption case in both the courts and the media to ensure that national and international laws were adhered to and that the child’s family was considered and consulted during the adoption process. He hasn’t stopped fighting for children’s rights either. More recently, he led efforts to close down a foreign-run orphanage that was acting as a transit point for child trafficking and illegal adoption. 155 children lived in the orphanage.
As a Stanford Fellow, Maxwell co-taught the class Social Entrepreneurs Advancing Democracy, Development, and Justice, a class at the Stanford Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. He gave students practical examples from his work in the community to provide students the opportunity to apply their studies to real time situations. Sarina Beges directs the Stanford Program on Social Entrepreneurship and had this to say about his impact on the program, “Maxwell brings to Stanford an innovative model to advance grassroots-led justice reform in Malawi. His path-breaking work to reform the structures of justice - both locally and nationally - has led to the improved welfare for thousands of children and is an important model for our students to learn about inside the classroom.” In the end, Maxwell received a case study of his work at Eye of the Child, an organization he founded in 1995 in Blantyre, Malawi to promote and protect child rights and a Firelight partner since 2004.
As he prepared to leave California last week, Maxwell said, "l did come to Stanford University to speak on our success in advocacy and social entrepreneurship, but l will go back with renewed energies to conquer the invisible that has been slowing down sustainable transformation of the majority poor children and families in Malawi." He gave this shout out from outside the classroom about his experience as a fellow.
Maxwell is one of those natural leaders who listens as well as he speaks. He’s a powerful force on issues of forced marriage, child labor and trafficking and a trained lawyer, but like many confident leaders, you’d never know the great work he’s done and the many people profoundly grateful for his help unless you heard it from them directly. He’s been called “Mr. Human Rights” for the work he’s been doing since founding Eye of the Child. He now has Stanford social entrepreneurship fellow to add to his list of accomplishments and it’s well deserved.
Opportunities to bridge the work happening in African communities and international communities like the one at Stanford are important because they remind us that Africans are leading the change children need. They provide us the chance to help it succeed through support and knowledge. We’re very pleased Stanford selected Maxwell to the program. The relationships he’s gained will help him to continue his great work to stop abuses of children and create more opportunities for them in Malawi. As Maxwell told one group of high school students at Firelight’s office, “Donors to Firelight allow us to stop abuse before it occurs, rather than responding after it has happened.” Maxwell’s forward vision makes that possible and we’ve seen the powerful evidence of that throughout our partnership.