A report on gender composition in parastatals conducted by the NGO-Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) has established that only three of 28 parastatal boards sampled have complied with the Gender Equality Act of 2013.
The analysis, which we have seen, indicates that Blantyre Water Board (BWB), Malawi Gaming Board (MGB) and Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) are the only boards whose appointments President Peter Mutharika made in line with the Act, representing a 10.7 percent compliance rate.
According to the survey of the boards sampled since 2016, the worst non-compliance record was registered in the National Water Resources Authority where no woman sits on the board while Small and Medium Enterprise Development Institute, the Technical Entrepreneurial, Vocational and Educational Training Authority (Teveta) and the Medical Council of Malawi were tying statistically at nine percent female representation.
Following the report, Women Lawyers Association (WLA) has blamed the country’s leader for what it termed “gross disregard” of the Gender Equality Act.
WLA Lilongwe chapter president Hilda Soko in a telephone interview yesterday said the survey had demonstrated how much Mutharika was disregarding the law which stipulates a 60-40 percent gender composition when making public appointments.
She said: “These appointments for parastatal board members, including the recent Cabinet appointments where the number of women were reduced, demonstrates that we are not making progress. We have written a letter of protest to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).”
She said WLA has also engaged the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) which has a legal obligation under Section 9(2) of the Act to monitor and evaluate the policies and practices of government organs to ensure gender equality.
Soko warned that if the President does not comply with the law, the group might take legal remedies.
A few weeks ago, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition petitioned the United Nations (UN) to strip Mutharika of his position as global champion for the United Nations’ (UN) HeforShe Campaign, saying he was not promoting gender equality.
On Tuesday WLA petitioned MHRC where it said Mutharika and Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister Joseph Mwanamvekha blatantly violated the Constitution which supports the upholding of women’s rights by appointing few women to the cabinet and not to the National Water Resources Authority board.
In an e-mailed questionnaire MHRC executive secretary David Nungu acknowledged the gaps in the implementation of the Act.
He said: “The commission will carry out a thorough audit of appointments and recruitment in the public service and private sector and prepare a policy brief which would inform engagement with the minister and all other authorities.”
But when contacted, Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Cecilia Chazama declined to state her ministry’s position regarding the appointments.
She said: “I have not seen the survey report. Besides, I am new in this ministry, therefore, I need to get down to business with my officials.”