Women Lawyers Association (WLA) and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have petitioned Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to intervene in the poor enforcement of the Gender Equality Act which they say has resulted in gender imbalance in ministerial and other influential posts.
In a petition dated November 20, WLA argues that President Peter Mutharika and Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Joseph Mwanamveka blatantly violated the constitutional obligation of upholding women’s rights by appointing few women to the Cabinet and National Water Resources Authority Board.
The Gender Equality Act stipulates that there should be at least 40 percent representation of women in positions of power.
Presenting the petition to MHRC, WLA president (Lilongwe Chapter) Hilda Kaluwa said there is gross disregard of the Gender Equality Act in the country and that women continue to be under-represented in many sectors.
She said Section 8 of the Gender Equality Act gives MHRC powers to enforce the Act.
Said Kaluwa: “We have petitioned MHRC to help us deal with this since the Constitution gives the commission mandate to investigate rights violations.”
The letter also requests MHRC to investigate the circumstances surrounding the appointments and collaborate with WLA to file a judicial review if there is no positive action from the Office of the President and Cabinet.
On his part, NGO-Gender Coordinating Network (NGO-GCN) national coordinator Innocent Hauya said MHRC has been too passive in enforcing the Gender Equality Act.
MHRC deputy executive secretary Winston Mwafulirwa acknowledged that there was a lot to be done in upholding women rights, but said the commission was doing a lot to empower women.
On November 7 this year, Mutharika appointed a new Cabinet of 20 with only three women. n