The Women of Nkhata Bay — Martha

Arianna Meschia
Let Them Talk, Such Is Life
6 min readMar 10, 2018

A few weekends ago on a night out at Kaya Papaya in Nkhata Bay town the unthinkable happened — I saw a woman wearing jeans! Naturally I had to go up to her and find out all about it: she was the first woman I saw not wearing a skirt and drinking beer with fellow rastafari men, so I was very intrigued.

I soon found out she was the famous Martha Chinyanja, who a few people had told me about — famous insofar as she is the only woman football coach in the whole district, and she has spent the best part of the last ten years coaching young boys and girls. For free.

I asked her if we could have a chat at some point and I was delighted when she showed up on time at 2pm sharp — I decided there and then that I liked her very much!

Since 2009 Martha has been working on a completely volunteer basis to teach young people how to play football and netball, while doing some counselling with the teenagers and keeping them out of trouble.

Top: training the Under 10s; Bottom left: the Under 20s team; Bottom Right: Martha can be a stern coach!

Originally from Sanje village in Nkhata Bay district, Martha was born and grew up in Zimbabwe until the age of ten. There she attended Mangula Primary School, and was coached by Atwel Mandaza in athletics — this is where her passion for sport and fitness first stemmed from.

As a little girl, she grew up one of only three girls in a large family full of men, so she spent a lot of time with her brothers learning how to play football and training in boxing — incidentally she has two medals, which she won in two different championships in Blantyre and Mzuzu in under a year. As you do.

Martha training in boxing with her coach Jo, also a well known tailor in Nkhata Bay town

She moved back to Nkhata Bay with her family when her father fell seriously ill, a consequence of a life spent working in mines — sadly, shortly after arriving to Malawi, her father passed away. This meant the end of education for Martha, whose…

Arianna Meschia
Let Them Talk, Such Is Life

Quit my job, sold what I owned. Here’s what’s next.