Urban Music People (UMP) organisers say gender biases and imbalances have over the years limited women’s participation in arts, music and fashion.
They say the situation has prompted them to embark on a drive called 50:50 initiative for women empowerment in arts and music which will ensure the promotion of women participation and empowering those already in the sector.
Because of the initiative, from this year, they have split the key categories of their annual UMP awards by gender to allow increased recognition of those participating in the sector.
Among those categories that have been split are Artist of the Year, Best Hip-hop Act of the Year, Best Dancehall Act and Best R ‘n’ B Act. In all these categories an award each will go to a female and male winner.
UMP projects director Wisdom Phanga said they are acting on the feedback that they have gotten over the years, urging them to increase the involvement of female talent as they celebrate their 10-year association with urban music in Malawi.
“We would like to pioneer a female empowerment campaign in the arts sector. We hope that other players in the industry will also adopt steps to ensure that female talent is nurtured and promoted,” he said.
Phanga said among their strategies to ensure that their goals are met, they will have 50 percent female artists on the lineup of any of their organised events. They have also identified the all-ladies group Krazy Colours as the ambassadors of the initiative.
He added: “We will identify and recruit nine talented young females to undergo a two-year sponsored training and mentorship programme in three key sub-sectors of the industry, namely music production, music video production, and graphic designing. There will be three recruits per sub-sector.”
Eunice Kadzuwa-Mhango, lead vocalist for Mizu Band, in an interview said it will take a lot of persistence and concerted cross-cutting efforts to completely wipe out the biases that the female musicians face in the country.
“The competition is not fair. It is very easy for a male artist to be recognised and make a breakthrough than it is for females. It is even worse for us doing secular music as we are simply labelled as prostitutes before our talent is appreciated,” she said.
In a related development, the UMP has announced the calendar for the 2019 award events. The fashion awards will take place on August 31 in Lilongwe; the music awards will take place on November 9 in Blantyre; on November 10 Blantyre will host the media awards; and the inaugural sports awards will take on December 29 in Lilongwe.