Malawi women reflect on political advancement

29 October 2019

Malawian women in politics have been taking stock of their success in the May elections and brainstorming how to gain an even greater say in the running of their country.

Malawian women in politics have been taking stock of their success in the May elections and brainstorming how to gain an even greater say in the running of their country.

During the tripartite elections in Malawi, more women were elected to the national Parliament and local government councils in comparison to previous elections (45 at parliament and 67 at local councils).

The Commonwealth partnered with the Malawi Ministry of Gender and the 50:50 Campaign to organise a two-day workshop in Lilongwe on female political participation.

Women shared their experiences of campaigning in the constituencies and the challenges of managing negative cultural barriers and stereotypes.

In a plenary session entitled 'Women and Other Voices from the 2019 Tripartite Elections', delegates, women parliamentarians and councillors made their views known alongside leaders of political parties and other stakeholders. They talked about the milestones achieved and remaining challenges to be tackled before attainment of strategic goals and objectives of the 50:50 Campaign.

In her opening remarks, the Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Mary Navitcha, thanked the Commonwealth for the technical assistance offered to Malawi women in the pre-election period. She noted that “political skill building technical assistance provided to female candidates by the Secretariat in partnership with the Ministry contributed immensely to the milestones achieved”.

Delegates also celebrated the election of the first ever woman Speaker, Catherine Gotani Hara; the first ever woman mayor of the city of Lilongwe, Councillor Mariana Kudaya; and the election of the youngest woman parliamentarian, 24-year-old Fynes Nwagonjwa.

Speaker of the Malawian Parliament, Catherine Gotani Hara said: "There is the need for political party reforms and to critically research and analyse the procedural practices of the political party primaries."

She encouraged political parties to translate their commitments to Malawi women into actions by reviewing their respective constitutions to make it more inclusive and gender responsive.

The Chair of the women’s parliamentary caucus, Lonnie Chijiere Phiri, added: “The 50:50 Campaign should focus more on providing strategic and tailor-made support to female candidates albeit strengthening retention programmes for incumbent female elected representatives.”

Commonwealth representative, Abubakar Abdullahi, said the Commonwealth was "proud of what was achieved in the Parliament, in Michinji and other political constituencies where more women were elected”.

He added: "The Secretariat is optimistic that women in diverse elective and leadership positions in Malawi will continue to play significant roles in legislative spaces and at policy tables where important national decisions on good governance and sustainable development are reached."

Executive Director of the 50:50 Campaign Management Agency, Viwemi Chavula, said: “The outcome of elections in Mchinji and other constituencies indicates a reduction in negative stereotypes against women and increased voter confidence”, while former Deputy Speaker, Dr Esther Mcheka Chilenje added: “More women could have been elected at district levels considering the large size of female candidature for the local council elections”.

The Commonwealth Secretariat remains committed to supporting Malawi’s national efforts to enhance women’s political participation and leadership.