Some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) which represented Malawi at the recent 62nd Convention on the Elimination of all Forms o Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva observed that lack of political will and lack of gender sensitivity in electoral laws are some of the areas government needs to improve on if the country is to make progress in so far as gender equality is concerned.
These issues are contained in a joint CSOs Malawi shadow report which was developed out of extensive consultations with rural and urban women as well as stakeholders working on women rights.
Among the issues raised by the CSOs are observed gaps in the Gender Equality Act, the Citizenship Act being retrogressive for women who are married to foreign husbands, inadequate funding to institutions responsible for implementing of gender issues and education.
“The Gender Equality Act provides for quotas in the tertiary education as well as public service appointments, however despite this progressive provision, recent public appointments made by the
president have failed to achieve this standard.
“Female representation in decision-making bodies is the lowest, currently, female representation at 15 percent with regard to cabinet appointments while at Malawi Human Rights Commission is at 14 percent and at Competition and Fair Trading Commission it is at 20 percent and finally zero percent at National Aids Commission,” said Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) National Director Mzati Mbeko who was part of the delegation at the convention.
Ironically, President Peter Mutharika is one of the eight HeForShe Global Champions, a solidarity movement for gender equality initiated by UN women with a goal to engage men and boys as agents of change for the achievements of gender equality and women’s rights, by encouraging them to take action against inequalities.
Mbeko said the organizations’ recommendation is that the President needs to put Malawi’s commitment into practice by ensuring that all public appointments adhere to the provisions of Gender Equality Act and that he reverse the appointments made and incorporate women in the
recent public appointments.
“In sections 11 and 16 of the Gender Equality Act, quotas only cover public service appointments and tertiary education enrolment but should include all sectors even in the political arena so that women should have a wider platform of participation in decision-making,” he said.
The CSOs also cited lack of gender sensitivity in electoral laws with the current provision for First Past the Post kind electoral system which has been a disservice to women who have to compete with men on an equal footing despite the particular challenges that women face
Oxfam Malawi Gender Justice Coordinator Anthony Maluwa said that is the CSOs consideration that as long as the laws do not contain affirmative action, women will still lag behind with regard to their
representation in elected positions.
“What we are asking government is to commit itself to ensure electoral laws are gender sensitive and provide for equitable representation of women. The state should borrow a leaf from other countries within SADC and COMESA region who have included quotas for women,” he said.