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More Women Compete in Malawi Polls

The May 19 presidential and parliamentary elections in Malawi will have more women candidates that ever. Statistics indicate that there are about 243 female candidates this year compared to 154 in 2004 elections.

The increasing number is attributed to the moral and financial support the aspiring women candidates are getting from the organizations fighting for equal representation in decision-making positions.

Donors are supporting the NGO Gender Coordination Network, which is funding all women candidates. Some enjoy a second source of funding – from their political parties.

Khadja Mdala is committee member of the task force for the Pan African Civic Educators Network, a local NGO is fighting for more women in the National Assembly. She's the candidate for the opposition People's Progressive Movement in Blantyre West Constituency

She says it's time for people to put more women in parliament.

"Once they have money," says Mdala, "[some men] with one wife think of adding [two more]. [They also think of using] the money which was supposed to be used for village development to enrich themselves. But women always think of the [our] work, and [the needs of our people]. That is why in most areas there are differences when you look at the work [women and men] are doing."

But some elected women officials are accused of also not aiding in development. Mdala says many of these belong to opposition parties. She says opposition politicians hesitate to lobby the government for funding. She explains that it's the government who makes the final decision on releasing development money, and it often allots funding only to ruling party legislators. So, opposition members instead focus on attracting donor and NGO support to their districts.

She says although she is in the opposition, this does not apply to her. She says she makes sure that people in her constituency get the development support they need like, good roads, hospital, boreholes and schools. Mdala is Muslim, but she says she will consult closely with Christians and other group to help them develop their communities.