Malawi’s Banda wows New York panel discussion on women leadership

Malawian President Mrs Joyce Banda stamped her authority as a woman of substance with an inspiring contribution when she was a co-panelist at a US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) panel discussion on Monday, September 24, 2012 at Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York, USA.

Monitored by Nyasa Times on a video link, President Banda lived to her bling when she reiterated that men in Africa have demonstrated “already” that they can create open space for women leadership and that therefore women should take advantage of this situation.

The theme of the discussion was “Holding Governments and Institutions Accountable for Gender Equality.” Another panelist was President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.

President Banda makes her point.-Photo courtesy of State House

According to the MCC Chief Executive Officer, Daniel Yohannes, they had invited the two Heads of State to attend the event, on the margins of the 67th UN General Assembly meetings, as they were “role models” and a manifestation that women have the capacity to lead given the necessary support.

President Banda told an audience of international corporation executives, diplomats, government officials and journalists, among others that some parts of the world “are struggling to get a woman into State House, but Africa had shown the way”.

“In Africa, it is happening,” she said. “Last time, in June, I had said that sooner Africa may have five female Heads of State; and before we knew it, Dr. Nkosasana-Dlamini Zuma became Head of the African Union,” the Malawi leader enthused as her words were met with explosive applause from the audience.

“There are Joyce Bandas and Ellen Sirleafs all over Africa.  They just need someone to listen,” said  the Malawi Head of State.

Banda said for her, she saw “genuine and sincere” determination from African men to integrate women into top leadership positions.

“Therefore, my view is that women in Africa must take advantage of that situation right now,” said President Banda.

Challenges

However, President Banda said women in Africa still face challenges to do with negative cultural and traditional practices that need surmounting if they are to be fully integrated into leadership and decision-making positions.

She also said women face financial constraints to successfully campaign for political positions, particularly to be elected into parliament where they can influence the enacting of favourable laws for women and girls.

Citing an example of Malawi, President Banda said when she was first elected legislator in 2004, there were 24 women MPs in Parlaiment of 193 members. The President said during that time, she championed the enactment of the Domestic Violence Bill, which materialized on April 19, 2012.

“We struggled to lobby the men to support us. And when we got it, the challenge, was to effectively and successfully sensitize the women to take advantage of the new law and not suffer in silence,” President Banda said.

The Malawi leader said it is therefore imperative that women that aspire to become legislators be given adequate financial support so that they fight for and support the enactment of laws that bring perpetrators of gender-based violence to book.

The Head of State also urged on rich western nations to support the girl-child to attain not only basic primary education but secondary and tertiary education as an effective means of empowering women in Africa.

One of the diplomats observed that Banda’s  delivery of her comments was “masterful.”

Other engangements

Meanwhile, the President will on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 attend a welcoming Reception hosted by the UN Secretary General, Ba Ki-moon in honour of Heads of State and Government and their spouses ahead of the Official Opening of the General Debate, according to President Banda’s press aide, Tusekele Mwanyongo.

Mwanyongo says the President will thereafter have bilateral talks with Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia.

Part of the audience at the panel discussion.-Photo courtesy of State House

Sirleaf and joyce

Two African female leaders; Liberia's Sirleaf Johnstone and Malawi's Joyce Banda.- Photo courtesy of State House

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