News / Africa

    Malawi Women Intensify Fight for Equal Space in Public Office

    Malawi president Joyce Banda waves to the crowd gathered in Lilongwe for the official launch of her electoral presidential campaign, March 29, 2014 in Lilongwe. Malawi president Joyce Banda waves to the crowd gathered in Lilongwe for the official launch of her electoral presidential campaign, March 29, 2014 in Lilongwe.
    x
    Malawi president Joyce Banda waves to the crowd gathered in Lilongwe for the official launch of her electoral presidential campaign, March 29, 2014 in Lilongwe.
    Malawi president Joyce Banda waves to the crowd gathered in Lilongwe for the official launch of her electoral presidential campaign, March 29, 2014 in Lilongwe.
    Lameck Masina
    Women rights campaigners have intensified their 50/50 drive to have equal representation in the May 20 elections. Malawi ranks as one of the countries with low female representation not only in southern Africa, but globally. At the moment, only 22 percent of 193 parliamentary seats are held by women.

    Gender activists hope that May’s tripartite elections will boost the number of women holding public office - both locally and nationally.
     
    Their campaign on billboards, radio and television aims to woo voters to support many of the more than 2,000 women vying to be lawmakers and local councillors.
     
    “About 52 percent of Malawi’s population is women," said Emmie Chanika, the chairperson for the permanent committee of the NGO Gender Coordinating Network. "And what we are talking about is that women should not just be used for dancing and for reproduction, but they should also use their intellect and whatever knowledge God can give them. In Malawi most of the farming is done by women. Why should we leave them out in leadership?”
     
    The organization is providing financial, material and moral support to all women candidate regardless of political party affiliation.  
     
    Getting help

    Chanika says aspiring MPs are given about $500 each; while aspiring councilors get about half that amount as capital for their campaign meetings. In addition, women have received training in public speaking.
     
    Activists have also formed a media task force - comprising editors and journalists from various local news organizations - to help them raise profiles of female candidates.
     
    “So far we have done profiles for those women, and we have interacted with the women candidates on what issues they want to put forward as they do their campaign, as well as giving them space in the media houses so that they should be known to the electorate,” explained Wezzie Nyirongo, the editor at Capital Radio who serves as a vice chairperson for the media task force.

    Nyirongo said in past elections, male candidates dominated media coverage due to the fact they had the money and means to finance a campaign.
     
    Despite these efforts, some female candidates say they are not benefiting and describe the 50/50 drive as more theoretical than practical.
     
    More money needed
    Aspiring parliamentarian Aisha Mambo (center) is greeted by one of her supporters at a rally in her Mangochi-Nkungulu district, Malawi, April 18, 2104. (Lameck Masina for VOA)Aspiring parliamentarian Aisha Mambo (center) is greeted by one of her supporters at a rally in her Mangochi-Nkungulu district, Malawi, April 18, 2104. (Lameck Masina for VOA)
    x
    Aspiring parliamentarian Aisha Mambo (center) is greeted by one of her supporters at a rally in her Mangochi-Nkungulu district, Malawi, April 18, 2104. (Lameck Masina for VOA)
    Aspiring parliamentarian Aisha Mambo (center) is greeted by one of her supporters at a rally in her Mangochi-Nkungulu district, Malawi, April 18, 2104. (Lameck Masina for VOA)
    Aisha Mambo, the aspiring parliamentarian for the opposition United Democratic Front in the Mangochi-Nkungulu constituency, told VOA that while she appreciates the strides the campaigning is making through radio advertisements, the assistance given is too little to help women to win.
     
    “In fact, I expected to get more financial support from them but as I am talking to you, what I got from them is only 200, 000 [Malawi] Kwacha [$500] which is even not enough for one campaign rally. And I also expected to get material support from them. But what we have heard is that they may give us 50 T-shirts which is not even enough," said Mambo.
     
    An aspiring councilor in Blantyre, who opted for anonymity for “fear of reprisals,” said the 50/50 campaign is spending too much money on media to make ads and jingles to promote women in general.  She argues the money would be better spent financing individual campaigns.
     
    Emmie Chanika defends the Gender Coordinating Network’s efforts, noting  the assistance given only aims to compliment what the candidates had budgeted for and not necessarily to fully bankroll their campaign.
     
    Not enough women candidates

    The Sunday Times social commentator, George Kasawala, has written in his column that he doubts this 50/50 drive will yield the desired results in the May polls.  He said there are only 257 women out of a total of 1,292 candidates vying for the 193 parliamentary seats.  He also noted that 44 constituencies have no women running at all.
     
    He suggested that Malawi should have taken a page from Rwanda’s book - which legislated affirmative action by reserving 30 percent of seats in parliament for women.  Women now hold half the legislative seats in the lower house in Rwanda - making the small African nation number one in the world when it comes to the number of female lawmakers.
     
    Malawi’s President Joyce Banda - who is running in the May 20 vote - is one of only three African women to hold the highest office.

    You May Like

    How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Probe Targeting China's Statistic Head Sparks Concern

    Economists now asking what prompted government to launch an investigation only months after Wang Baoan had been vetted for crucial job

    HRW: Both Sides in Ukraine Conflict Targeted, Used Schools

    Rights group documents how both sides in Ukraine conflict carried out attacks on schools and used them for military purposes

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.