The visiting Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on Sunday launched the Malawi Professional Women’s Dialogue, encouraging the education of women to advance the gender movement.
The forum was launched at a breakfast meeting held in Lilongwe as part of Johnson Sirleaf’s three-day visit to Malawi which started on Saturday.
Johnson-Sirleaf said educating women on their rights is the right approach to propel women into action, at every level.
“The women’s movement has lost the passion; we have lost it. Without education there can be no movement, educate women on their rights and this propels women into action,” she said.
Speaking earlier, President Joyce Banda explained how in the 1980s and 1990s she led the women movement in Malawi through the establishment of National Association of Business Women (Nabw) and contributed to the founding of the NGO Gender Coordinating Network.
But she also said she is saddened that the women movement had “gone to sleep” due to lack of forums in which professional women could dialogue on a professional level.
“Support can do a lot for women professionally. Overtime, I have observed there are not many ways in which professional women gather and engage constructively. This has been observed through the poor retention of women Members of Parliament in recent times,” she said.
Explaining the rationale behind the formation of the Professional Women’s Dialogue, Deputy Reserve Bank Governor Naomi Ngwira outlined the challenges professional women face in the rise up the ladder and also at the summit.
Ngwira said it was only after more women participated in development that they benefit through an increase in income, access to education, improved health and freedom of expression.
“When we have more women leaders, women will have greater access to these things. When we have more women leaders, there is greater governance and increased inclusivity,” she said.
Ngwira also said the objectives of the Professional Women’s Dialogue were to deepen dialogue between women outside of their professional associations and to further proportionally increase numbers of professional women.
The forum would be institutionalised through establishment of a secretariat in the Ministry of Gender to strengthen networks.