Pacenet urges CSOs to lobby for gender affirmative law for more Malawi women MPs

Pan African Civic Educators Network(Pacenet)  Executive Director Steven Duwahas urged civil society organizations (CSOs) to start lobbying for adoption of gender affirmative law and other measures for advancement of women in politics.

Duwa briefing delegates.-Photo by Jeromy Kadewere, Nyasa Times

Duwa was speaking this on Wednesday at Annes Lodge in Zomba duringa meeting on setting up election situation Room.

Present during the meeting were politicians and heads from different CSOs like Oxfam, Actionaid, Yoneco.

Duwa stressed that measures need to be taken for the advancement of women in civil, political, economic social and cultural matters, including affirmative action in the education of girls, as well as other efforts to modify sociocultural patterns resulting from sexual stereotypes that disadvantage women in politics.

Duwa noted that  in 2009, there were more female MPs but the trend has been going down due to many factors such as lack of political will in parties and strict scrutiny of women politicians by the public unlike their male counterparts.

“Experience has shown that it is difficult for women to penetrate men-headed parties in the country,” he said.

Therefore,he assured  that his organization will strive to address cultural barriers to women participation in leadership positions in politics and other decision making positions.

He said  they aim to achieve this by transforming people’s perceptions of women leadership through increased community and civic understanding on gender equality and women right to leadership, including political participation.

United Democratic Front publicist Ken Ndanga observed that most of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) advancing women participation in politics have failed to change people’s mindset towards women.

Ndanga cited late identification of [female] aspiring candidates and late provision of training to the aspirants are among challenges the NGOs need to address.

He observed that  NGOs should aim at empowering female contenders right from the party level, particularly when parties are going for conventions.

“This will give women a leeway to influence some decisions in the party,” he explained.

Chairperson of NGO-Gender Coordinating Network, Emma Kaliya, commended Pacenet for picking up violence against women in elections as a critical issue contributing towards low numbers of female participation in elections.

Commenting on the rejection of women quota, Kaliya was still optimistic and she encouraged men to support women and not regard them as a threat.

“I am hopeful our political leaders will seriously sit down and consider the rejection of the 28 women seats as another vote of no confidence to women.

“If we continue on this path it will be a shame to this country. Malawi needs to do better in promoting women participation in elections because it has the capacity. Women are not a threat and, therefore, there is no need to panic about 28 seats. Rather, let us think about the future by supporting women.” Kaliya said.

She further expressed doubts on the readiness of the country to increase female representation in Parliament and councils in the 2019 elections.

“I have been very optimistic all the time on achieving 50-50 women and men representation in elections but I am becoming a bit nervous that maybe the expectations that most of us had may not be what other people are seeing.

“I had a very high expectation that things would move after 2014 defeat for women.

“I was thinking we are moving forward with the way of doing things, better strategies and that those charged with the responsibility of putting things together can put policies, laws and everything that would assist to facilitate the smooth way of electoral process that would see more women participating.

“But what I am seeing is different, we still have a few months to go, so will wait and see but I am beginning to doubt so much,” Kaliya said.

The meeting on identifying specific forms of harassment and violence against women during elections is one of the activities falling under electoral project cycle currently being funded by European Union through UNDP to Pcanet through UN Women.

This project led to the launch of newly developed gender transformative grassroots community engagement manual which highlights key issues to women political leadership and strategies to address those challenges.

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