By Jordan Simeon-Phiri – MEC STRINGER

As the 2019 tripartite elections clock is ticking closer, Pan African Civil Educators Network (PACENET) in conjunction with Youth and Society (YAS) have joined hands to drum up support for more women representation both at parliament and council level.

This was revealed during a District Gender Technical Committee and Stakeholders Planning meeting that was jointly conducted by both PACENET and YAS in Karonga district recently.

The two Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have teamed up with one sole objective of enhancing women participation in democratic governance in the country as Malawi Electoral Election (MEC) is preparing for the 2019 tripartite elections after the 2014 United Nations Women (UN) survey revealed that Malawi has a very poor women representation in parliament and local government houses.

Speaking at the function, YAS Assistant Programs Manager Sylvester Kapondera challenged all stakeholders in the district to rise above all odds and render their support behind all female representatives during the 2019 general elections if the country is to win the 50:50 campaigns.

“We would like to work with all stakeholders here in Karonga to change peoples’ mindset towards ladies. Our cultural values and beliefs most of the times become a stumbling block for female aspirants as they are regarded as weak minded people, this perception is totally wrong for the country’s socio-economic development and democratic governance,” Kapondera said.

Added he: “So, after this project we expect to change the mindset of people so that here in Karonga we should graduate from one female Ward Councilor out of ten to say six or eight female Ward Councilors and again from zero Member of Parliament (MP) to two or three MPs in Karonga district”.

Taking his turn, the PACENET Assistant Programs Coordinator Pearson Malinda said the main reason why his organisation came up with this project was to strengthen women’s political empowerment throughout the whole electoral cycle with an aim of increasing the women representation in Parliament and Ward Councilors which according to the 2014 Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) general elections results is at 17 percent and 12.1 percent respectively.

“Our aspiration is to increase community and citizenry understanding of gender equality, political governance and women’s right to political participation so that we should have at least the 50:50 representation both at Parliamentary and Local Government level during the 2019 tripartite elections’, Malinda said.

Malinda while ruling out the financial assistance to female aspirants in the six catchment districts that the project is being implemented, he said his organisation is still exploring avenues on how this can be addressed as economic challenges is one set back that women go through during campaign period as men depend on dishing out handouts as one way of enticing the electorates.

“While PACENET is considering the possibility of bankrolling female aspirants financially and materially, we would like to urge all political parties, to put in place deliberate policies that would favour women representation during the 2019 tripartite elections. And again local leaders and the community at large should rally their support behind female aspirants so as to achieve this objective”, he said.

Speaking on behalf of all local leaders, Senior Chief Mwirang’ombe commended both PACENET and YAS for the initiative and promised to do everything possible to support it saying, women never desert their respective areas once voted into power in the process they facilitate various developments.

“Most men have failed us and have ended up disappointing voters because once they win an election, they go to cities and towns, running away from their roles of initiating various developments in the area. This is bad. Therefore, I as one of the traditional leaders whose area is to benefit this project, be assured of my total support”, the Senior Chief said.

The UN-Women is funding the project and will be implemented in six districts of Dedza, Mangochi, Mulanje, Mzimba, Karonga and Salima through District and Zonal Community Based Organisation Networks (CBOs) and is aimed at producing atleast 120 female candidates in the six impact districts in the forth 2019 general elections.