There appears to be no end in sight to the fight between President Lazarus Chakwera and women’s rights activists pushing for increased inclusion of women in public appointments under the watch of the President.
This time around, the women, under the banner of say they are appalled by the fact that some of the parastatal boards, whose composition they questioned, have started functioning despite the issues remaining unresolved. Women’s Manifesto Movement,
Further, the women—who held street protests on October 9 2020 and petitioned the President—say they will seek legal redress because the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) has not responded to correspondence from Women’s Manifesto Movement lawyers dated September 27.
But the President, speaking through his press secretary Brian Banda, yesterday reiterated his commitment to addressing the grievances of the Women’s Manifesto Movement on appointment of few women into boards of statutory corporations.
Banda said: “Notwithstanding, the President is fully committed to contact and dialogue as the best approach for addressing the social ills that affect all Malawians.”
He was reacting to a statement dated October 16 2020 signed by Women’s Manifesto Movement leaders Maggie Kathewera Banda and Barbara Banda.
In the statement, the Women’s Manifesto Movement said their efforts to engage the OPC had proved futile on numerous occasions; hence, their resolve to engage government and other stakeholders on the matter.
Reads the statement in part: “We will be engaging with government and other stakeholders, as appropriate, using all lawful means to defend the constitutional principle of non-discrimination and gender equality.”
In an interview yesterday, Kathewera Banda—who is also executive director of Women’s Legal Resources Centre—said they will pursue the matter at all cost to ensure that justice prevails. She said they will use all necessary legal means, including another series of street demonstrations.
She said: “We have always been open to dialogue, but dialogue needs to produce results. We met the President in May 2019 and that time he promised to promote gender equality.
“We met the President again
when we asked to have an audience with him in August 2020. He assured us of the same, but nothing happened. So, dialogue needs to lead to results.”
Kathewera Banda said in any case, where there are laws, they should be followed whether or not there is dialogue.
But while emphasising on dialogue being the best route in addressing the matter, Brian Banda said Chakwera will not stop any person from seeking legal redress on the matter.
He said if anyone felt offended and needed their grievances addressed through the courts, they can proceed.
The Women’s Manifesto Movement on October 9 held demonstrations in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu to express displeasure with the low representation of women in the statutory corporation boards.
The movement i s faulting Chakwera for failing to fulfill the Gender Equality Act (GEA) of 2013 in appointments of people into various boards.
While the GEA stipulates appointment of not less than 40 percent and not more than 60 percent of either sex in public service, out of the 54 fully filled boards, only 11—representing 20.37 percent—comply with the law. This means that 79.63 percent fall short of this law.