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Malawi election is big win for women, says gender expert

31 May 2019

The Malawi election result shows women are gaining ground in the country’s politics.

This month’s tripartite elections saw female candidates increase their share of parliamentary seats from 16 per cent to 23 per cent.

In the run-up to the vote, the Commonwealth partnered with Malawi’s Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare and the 50:50 Campaign Malawi to prepare women candidates for campaigning.

Workshops were held for 80 officers drawn from civil society, the Ministry of Gender and local NGOs. They then passed on skills to women candidates across Malawi’s 28 districts.

While women made up just 16 per cent of the National Assembly and 11 per cent of elected local government officials, those figures have now risen to 23 per cent and 13 per cent for local government officials so far.

The Commonwealth Observer Group was deployed to all three regions of the country where they observed the election environment and poll preparations.

One of the Observers, Terry Dale Ince, who is a gender specialist, said she is impressed by the feedback she received from workshop participants.

She said: “One of the women who participated and contested for a position at the parliament wrote to me saying even though she came third out of nine, she is optimistic and already getting ready to run again in the next election in 2024.”

Like many Commonwealth countries, Malawi has a target of between 30 and 50 per cent women’s representation under national, regional and international obligations.

Commonwealth Head of Africa section, Yvonne Apea Mensah, said: “Right from the turnout of voters, I heard that women were leading, with more than 50 per cent of registered voters being women.

“Malawi now has to maintain on that trajectory with ongoing sustainable capacity building interventions. 

“Congratulations to Malawians, the 50-50 campaign, the Commonwealth and all partner stakeholders.”

Commonwealth support for Malawi’s electoral processes started in January where a workshop for editors and media managers saw them create a toolkit to help implement their election Media Code of Conduct. A final workshop will be held towards the end of June to determine whether the toolkit and action plans had a positive impact on election media coverage.