Since democracy, government and development partners have been campaigning for women empowerment and leadership in social, economic and political development.
We have heard and witnessed various campaigns and projects with a sore focus on women empowerment and leadership.
But two decades later, Malawi is still bemoaning women’s poor participation as few women still hold important decision-making positions, particularly in politics.
The alarming fact that women are underrepresented in elected offices is just unavoidable! This is despite the fact that Malawi’s population is dominated by women.
It is, however, reported that Malawi is making strides in the battle for more women participation in politics. For instance, more women were elected in 2014’s tripartite elections compared to the 2009 elections.
There are now over 30 women parliamentarians out of the 193 MPs in the National Assembly.
But should this be applauded considering the disturbing fact it is women who dominate our political arenas singing and shouting praises for their political parties?
Should we say that the women do not support each other or are they less qualified and lack what it takes to make it to the top?
Gender activist and Salima North West MP Jessie Kabwila admitted that many women spend more time singing praises for their party while the men sit in important positions at both local and national committees of the parties.
She emphasised that women are taken as ‘invited guests’ in most political parties’.
“We are usually looked down upon. Big positions such as the, presidency, its deputy and governor are held by men. Even when women are involved in political arguments or debates, some people do not view that as politics, but personal,” explained Kabwila.
The activist blamed society and traditions for viewing women as less important than men when it comes to governing issues.
“Our culture does not value women leadership. We have been made to believe that a woman is not a complete person without her man; she is just mkazi wa munthu (somebody’s wife). But it has been proven that women have the same potential as men when given a chance in political, social and economic development.” she pointed out.
Kabwila urged civil society organisations (CSOs) and the government to continue campaigning for more women to decision making positions. Political analyst Chris Chisoni said political reforms should include introduction of laws and regulations that will allow women to fully participate in political leadership.
He also blamed social cultural and traditional values for putting men as superior over women on governance issues.
“Indeed women are mostly involved at local levels in political parties. It is men who hold big positions in the national committees of most parties. That is why there have been initiatives such as the 50-50 Campaign to address this.
“Another way of improving women’s participation is through making laws that allow political parties to have legislative bodies to ensure adequate women representation at both local and national levels of the party,” said Chisoni.