May 22nd, 2018: Malawi Law Society President Dr. Mwiza Nkhata has said the State has a critical role to play in promoting gender equality through the full participation of women in all spheres of life based on equalisation of opportunities between men and women.
Speaking at the Malawi Law Society Annual Dinner and Dance on 18th May in Blantyre under the theme “Towards an Inclusive Electoral Process: 50-50 Campaign”, Nkhata said the 2019 Tripartite Elections are an opportunity for Malawi to increase representation of women and people with disabilities in elected positions, including as Members of Parliament and Councillors.
“For persons with disabilities, the Constitution enjoins the State to take steps to promote the fullest possible participation in all spheres of Malawian life; for the elderly, the Constitution enjoins the State to take steps to further their participation in the life of the community,” said Nkhata.
United Nations Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres said Malawi’s democracy can only thrive if it embraces inclusive elections. Torres said ensuring that women and men, including those with disabilities, participate in elections without unfair barriers is a core component of delivering an inclusive election.
“Women’s full and equal participation in political and electoral processes as a human right, is one of the litmus tests for women’s empowerment and gender equality in a country,” she said. “When women participate in elections, they have an opportunity to express their own needs and interests. In that way decisions better reflect the electorate; political processes are more inclusive; while democracy is strengthened.”
Torres said achieving gender equality is a top priority for the UN as enshrined in the UN Charter, which she said promotes respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all regardless of their race, sex, language or religion.
The UN representative also said achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls will improve Malawi’s progress on implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), urging stakeholders to collectively address deep-rooted challenges that limit women participation in politics.
“Women face many odds when they want to participate in politics. These include negative societal norms, stereotyped image of women and their roles in society, perception of their capacity and tenacity – all collectively impose huge challenges and barriers for women who aspire to be in politics. Women candidates also face gaps in capacities or resources that prevent them from competing effectively with men,” said Torres.
She said Malawi should not go below women representation rates that are over 30 percent in Mozambique and Tanzania parliaments.
Action Aid executive director, Grace Malera, whose organisation is among those championing the 50-50 campaign, lobbied the lawyers to offer their legal services on pro-bono basis to help women who may face obstacles when participating in the electoral process.