President Joyce Banda has challenged women on the African continent to use her personal story as a source of inspiration to overcome the obstacles that inhibit progress in their lives.
President Banda was presenting a Keynote Address—The Rise of Women in Malawi and on the African Continent—Our Time is Now—at a high-level International Symposium on Women’s Leadership and Economic Growth at Pacifio Yokohama Exhibition Annex Hall in the Japanese City of Yokohama on Friday.
She said her personal journey represents the resilience and capacity among the African women to claim their rightful places.
“Becoming only the second female Head of State in Africa’s history after Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia is a moment of pride for me. But mine is not the story of success of an individual, but of a people,” she said.
She was pleased that many African women have not just sat back, and accepted being pushed into the margins of society, but have instead risen up to claim their rightful places in society.
“For decades, I have fought these issues in Malawi as a human rights activist and through my work at the grass roots. I have experienced the struggles of the poor and the suffering of a Malawian woman,” she said.
She said has a vision to eradicate poverty through economic growth and wealth creation “by transforming the structure of our economy, promoting the private sector in order to achieve economic growth, accelerate job creation and protect the vulnerable and the excluded within a decentralized and democratic environment.”
“As women leaders, we should not allow children to suffer from malnutrition. We should refuse to allow our children to learn under trees rather than proper classrooms. We should refuse to allow mothers to die while giving birth because the nearest health centre is far away.
“When these challenges are prevalent, our economies cannot meaningfully achieve sustainable economic growth,” she emphasized.
President Banda said her specific vision “is to transform Malawi to become the fastest growing African economy in the next decade.”
“For me, growth is not merely about GDP growth. Growth is about wealth and prosperity for all, opportunity for all, happiness for all, political and economic freedom for all.
“Growth is also about growing and improving access to education for our children, and creating jobs for our youths. Growth is about growing the number of mothers who give safe birth in a hospital,” she explained.
The President said when she became President she was pleased that “after taking very tough decisions, implementing pro growth and inclusive policies, the Malawi economy has started recovering and it is projected to grow 4.9 percent this year from 1.4 percent in 2012.”
“Malawi refuses to remain in a vicious cycle of under-development. We are committed to change this situation. But in doing this, my government and indeed the people of Malawi know that we need to engage the rest of this global community,” said President Banda.
She said Malawi will continue to need global support in the short and medium term to protect the rural poor from food shortages; support to build our energy capacity, the deficits in which are fundamentally constraining our growth; support to attract private investment for the potential we have in agro-processing, tourism and mining; and support to develop transport and communications infrastructure in our land-locked nation in order to improve the country’s access to markets and improve regional and intra-Africa trade.
“I ask for your support as this one African country, Malawi, repositions to realize its full potential – potential for Malawians, for Africans and for the world,” she said.
President Banda addressed the symposium at the invitation of the Mayor of the City of Yokohama, Madame Fumiko Hayashi, Mayor of the City of Yokohama.
She said the theme of the conference: “The Symposium on Women’s Leadership and Economic Growth” was “very appropriate in these times as we see women assuming proportionate responsibilities in various disciplines across the world.”
The Mayor as well spoke at the official opening of the symposium so did Toshiko Abe, Japanese Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Hideaki Doumichi, Vice President of JICA and Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP.
Later, the President was taken on a tour of the Malawi Pavilion at an International Trade Exhibition within the Pacifio Yokohama Exhibition Annex Hall.
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