Former Malawi president Joyce Banda focused on the the challenges faced by women when she spoke on Tuesday at the BBC 100Women conference in London on Tuesday October 28.
In her keynote address, Banda said despite there being progress for women moving into decision making positions as witnessed by the rise of women at all levels of society including becoming Heads of State and Government; women still face various challenges in their journeys to public life.
Her speech about her time in office trended on Twitter with tweets coming from many including UK broadsheet newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
She said women have made important strides in public life across the world and that “Africa has done very well.”
Banda pointed out that women are able to compete in politics “comfortably” and help other women too.
“It would be tragic for this world to ignore this enormous human resource called women,” she warned.
“I don’t want anyone to say women are their own enemies. We need to stand by each other and vote for one another. We must accept it,” said Banda in panel discussion question and answer session.
She said: “I didn’t promote women to senior government positions to show off, I did it on merit.”
Highlighting challenges faced by women, Banda said during her speech that in many countries, women face constrained access to formal education.
“As a result of this, they have lower access to opportunities in employment, business and financial services,” she said.
She called for an “urgent need” to educate women and the girl child, saying education is a promoter and a defense that helps people to raise themselves up and assist them in breaking barriers for their development.
Banda also noted that lack of economic empowerment contributes to gender inequality and inequality of economic opportunities for women as well as unequal social status and rights.
“These inequalities slow down development for women and their ability to rise to public offices,” she said
Banda also said patriarchal society has hindered many women to enter public life in many parts of the world.
“Faulty socialisation processes at household level and community orientation have led women not being accepted into leadership positions. This has also impacted on the women to feel that they don’t have to fight for leadership positions,” she noted.
She said the behaviour patterns have mostly been influenced by negative attitudes, traditions and customs.
“I believe that real change must start with changing attitudes, traditions and behaviours in our families, communities and institutions.
“We need to sensitise societies on the negative effects of these attitudes, traditions and cultures and where necessary pass legislation to enforce compulsory education and outlawing early marriages among others,” advocated Banda.
The conference attracted women who have served on the frontline to discuss their lives and what it is like succeeding as a woman in what is traditionally seen as a man’s world.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :