BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)–The push for equal gender representation – known as 50-50 campaign – which gained momentum during the reign of late President Bingu wa Mutharika is being threatened by the Tonse Alliance government following President Lazarus Chakwera’s remarks that Malawi has inadequate qualified females.
Chakwera, who used to criticize the immediate past President Peter Mutharika for failing to include more women in leadership positions, startled Malawians on Monday when he said gender balance in his recent appointments could not be achieved because of inadequate qualified females.
He made the remarks at Kamuzu Palace when he was cerebrating 100 days in office since he assumed power after defeating Mutharika in the Court sanctioned election on June 23, 2020.
“The hiring of boards of directors for dozens of parastatals was not just to fill space,” said Chakwera.
He said gender balance could not be achieved because of inadequate qualified females.
The President said the legal instruments on picking boards did not allow just to handpick any female into the boards, but being dependent on qualifications.
To make it clear that he does not see qualified females, Chakwera further asked the general public to bring forward a list of capable women who they feel can be included in different positions in government departments.
He was responding to a question on the appointment of boards in relation to women representation, which is below the requirement under the Gender Equality Act.
Chakwera has attracted criticisms from the general public for ‘insulting’ women in the country as many feels that Malawi has well educated females who can execute duties in government beyond our expectation.
“If what I have seen, that Chakwera has asked for a list of capable women, is true then his arrogance and misogyny can not be outdone. For ujeni sake man, use the same approach you use to identify capable men – some of the men do not even deserve to be in the category of capable men.
“Did you ask the public to give you a list of capable men? In other words, what the President has said, if what I have seen is true, then he says he is not aware of women who are capable to be appointed in senior public positions. What a sad day. When you told Mutharika to piss off for failing to meet the legal gender representation requirement, I was of the view you were aware of those women. Have those women suddenly raptured to another universe? Tell my man to SHUT UP,” reacted Pearson Nkhoma.
“Thank you Mr President for your pledge to achieve 50 percent representation of women in public appointments by 2025. That is very generous of you! But before we take you seriously on your pledge, can we start with meeting the bare minimum of 40 percent as provided by law NOW!! It’s absurd that you insulted our intelligence by asking us to give you names of capable women,” wrote O’phade Mkomandolo on his facebook page.
In his 31-member cabinet which was heavily criticized for being full of cronies saw only four women making it to full cabinet ministers.
The female ministers include UTM Secretary General Patricia Kaliati who is appointed Minister of Community Development and Social Welfare, Educationist Agness Nyalonje of UTM is now Minister of Education, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) lawmaker Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda is appointed key ministerial position of Minister of Health.
Another female Cabinet minister is legislator Nancy Tembo who has been given the portfolio of Forestry and Natural Resources.
As if that was not enough, the president has now all-men league of eleven advisors. This is departure from what he promised during the campaign on the 50-50 campaign.
The advisors include Moses Kunkuyu, Special advisor on Chiefs and Rural Governance, Maxwell Thyolera, ex legislator for Lilongwe North East, is now Presidential Advisor on Parliamentary Affairs, Ephraim Chibvunde, Peoples Party vice president for the South, is presidential advisor on Political Affairs.
Chancellor Kaferapanjira, former CEO of Malawi Confederation of Commerce and Industry, is Chief Economic Advisor, Samson Lembani is Chief Advisor on Public Policy and Governance while Colleen Zamba is Chief Advisor on Sustainable Development Goals and International Relations.
Chris Chaima Banda is Chief Advisor on Strategy and Manifesto Implementation, musician Lucius Banda is Advisor on Youth and Arts, Cleric Brian Kamwendo, former deputy secretary general of Nkhoma Synod is the Presidential Advisor on Christianity, Sheikh Hashim Abbas is Advisor on Muslims and Nick Chakwera who is the Advisor on Political Affairs.
Unlike Chakwera, his predecessor Peter Mutharika included women in his league of advisors since 2014.
The State House is also dominated by men with only Martha Chikuni holding a substantial position of Head of Marketing.
Ironically, Chakwera committed to champion 50-50 campaign and endorsed the ‘women manifesto.’
Main issues in the manifesto include women and education, women and health, women and economic empowerment, women and agriculture, women and leadership, politics and governance.
Late Bingu wa Mutharika, the President of Malawi from 2004 to 2012, still remain the only president who was eager to demonstrate that Malawi would make progress on its regional and international commitments to increase the numbers of women in decision-making spaces.
During his time, Malawi had the highest number of female candidates it had ever had and 43 seats out of 193 seats were eventually won by women.
Though they later parted ways, Mutharika was the one who brought Joyce Banda in the spotlight and eventually she became the first female president in the Southern African country.