The 50:50 Campaign Management Agency, an institution championing gender equality in elected political positions, has faulted President Peter Mutharika for reducing the number of women in Cabinet from four to three in the 20-member team.
But government has said women empowerment is more than being appointed to serve in the Cabinet.
In a statement released on Friday signed by its team leader Viwemi Chavula and ActionAid Malawi executive director Grace Malera, the agency said the action reverses the progress the country has made towards achieving gender equality obligations entrenched in the country’s laws.
Reads the statement in part: “This severe gender imbalance in the Cabinet casts serious doubts and brings into question both the President’s and government’s commitment to the agenda of increasing representation of women in politics.
“This development undermines the very ethos of gender equality and attendant obligations on affirmative action which this country requires for the empowerment of women.
“It also puts into question the President’s commitment on his role as a HeForShe Global Champion where he committed to achieve gender parity by 2020 and deliver change from the top.”
The 50:50 Campaign Management Agency said while it acknowledges that the power and prerogative to appoint people into Cabinet rests in the President, said the Head of State is under obligation to uphold the dictates of the Constitution when exercising such powers.
“Observance of the provisions relating to gender equality as provided for in sections 13, 20, and 24 of the Constitution and various statutes and international human rights instruments ratified by Malawi, among other things, is of paramount importance.
“In view of the foregoing, the agency is reminding the political leadership of this country that democracy is constructed by processes of inclusiveness. The women of Malawi have constitutionally guaranteed human rights, including the right to gender equality,” reads the statement.
But Minister of Information and Communications Technology Henry Mussa, who is the official government spokesperson, said people should not only look at Cabinet as there are many positions headed by women.
He said: “The Malawi Electoral Commission [MEC] chairperson is a woman as well as Competition and Fair Trading [CFTC] chief executive officer. Then we have women leaders in embassies, Parliament [First Deputy Speaker], parastatals and even principal secretaries.
“There is need to look at things outside the box because when we talk about 50:50 campaign. It is not about Cabinet only.”
Mutharika has also come under fire for appointing into Cabinet firebrand Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regional governor for the South Charles Mchacha who is accused of demeaning women.
Also under scrutiny is Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Grace Chiumia for failing to declare her assets which is contrary to Section 14 (3) of the Declaration of
Assets, Liabilities and Business Interests Act of 2013.
The assets directorate wrote the President and Speaker of Parliament to dismiss Chiumia. Besides the minister, there are also five other legislators who did not comply with the assets law.