Oxfam in Malawi country director Lingalireni Mihowa has called on the National Assembly to be gender-responsive.
Speaking on Saturday in Mangochi during the opening of a two-day Parliamentary Women Caucus Workshop and Retreat under the theme Women’s Leadership With a Difference, Mihowa said some Parliaments have made strides by transforming themselves and being gender responsive in their set-up.
She cited the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament, which she said has allowed proxy voting to allow expectant legislators to vote from the comfort of their homes.
Said Mihowa: “Cultures have been harsh to women in our society. The mistake a woman makes in Parliament will remain for a long time face under hostile reception which deprive women‘s full participation in Parliament.”
She noted that Nordic countries have made progress to allow women to come to Parliament with their babies to ensure that their contribution is not left out.
Mihowa said women need to be equipped with the right information for them to stand on their own.
On her part, British High Commissioner Holly Tett said the Women Caucus should carefully look into and work on addressing issues of violence against women, early marriages, women empowerment and girls access to education.
She said: “An effective Women Caucus in Parliament can move things for the better. Women issues need to be treated with urgency at all the times and that they need to work to together as a team.”
Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara said empowering women and promoting gender equality was crucial to accelerating sustainable development.
She said she desires to see Parliament driving and practising the gender agenda forcefully for the benefit of all members.
Meanwhile, Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Mary Navicha has challenged members of Parliamentary Women Caucus to be effective and make an impact in Parliament.
She said: “You have a role to contribute meaningfully to the country’s governance, as you play the roles of oversight, legislative and representation.”
The minister commended Oxfam and partners like Westminster Foundation for Democracy and other local non-governmental organisations for organising the workshop and retreat.