United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative Maria Torres has said inclusive elections are central to democracy.
Speaking at a Malawi Law Society (MLS) Dinner and Dance at Protea Ryalls in Blantyre on Friday, Torres, who was guest of honour, said ensuring that women and men can and do participate without unfair barriers is a core component of delivering an inclusive election.
MLS held its annual dinner and dance under the theme: ‘Towards an inclusive electoral process: The 50-50 Campaign’. The country will be going to the polls in May next year and the 50:50 programme promotes women participation in decision-making positions.
She said: “Achieving gender equality is a top priority for the United Nations. It is enshrined as a fundamental Human Right in Article 1 of the United Nations Charter, which states that one of the purposes of the UN lies in…promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”
In 2000, Torres said, the UN Security Council Resolution, through its Resolution Number 1325 on women, peace and security, encouraged the election and appointment of women in positions of power.
“Fair representation and participation of women in governance is one of the preconditions for achieving genuine democracy. There can be no real democracy if half the population is excluded from participation and power,” she said.
MLS president Mwiza Nkhata told the guests that the authority to govern in Malawi is derived from the people of Malawi, who must choose their governors through universal and equal suffrage in elections conducted in line with the laws of Malawi.
He said the State is under an obligation to promote several fundamental principles with the objective of improving the welfare and development of the people of Malawi, including securing gender equality through the full participation of women in all spheres of the Malawian society on the basis of equalisation of opportunities between men and women.
Nkhata, a law lecturer at Chancellor College, said the State must also take steps to enhance the quality of rural life in Malawi and, poignantly, the Constitution directs that the nation must be able to use the quality of rural life as an indicator of the success of government policies.
“For persons with disabilities, the Constitution enjoins the State to take steps to promote the fullest possible participation in all spheres of Malawian life; for the elderly, the Constitution enjoins the State to take steps to further their participation in the life of the community,” he said.
The MLS president said the elections next year accord the nation a unique opportunity to bring to the centre all those citizens that have not received deserved attention so far.
Action Aid, which is among those promoting the 50:50 campaign supported the Law Society’s dinner and dance and the organisation’s executive director, Grace Malera, addressed the guests on the importance of supporting women.