UDF’s Patel upbeat on 50:50 female representation

Patel: Violence targetting women may slow

United Democratic Front (UDF) Mangochi South legislator, Lillian Patel has said although it may not be possible for Malawi to achieve the 50:50 representation in parliament and at local government, the current figures may double in 2019 elections.

Patel made the remarks over the weekend during an interface with the media in her constituency as part of the 50:50 Campaign activities being implemented by the 50:50 Campaign Management Agency with funding from the Icelandic International Development Agency (CEIDA).

Patel said the number of women would increase because people have now come to terms with the fact that women can deliver only if given a chance.

“Each of the 32 women MPs in parliament, for instance, has delivered quite a lot in her constituency and our male counterparts are aware of this,” Patel said.

“So, our male competitors will do anything to discredit us but given how we have served our constituents, I’m very optimistic that we may double the figure in parliament next year or we may even hit 80,” she added.

Patel, who has served for fou rterms, warned women aspiring for parliamentary and local government seats to develop a thick skin, saying the going will never be easy.

“I’ve seen it all here over the years. I’ve been called all sorts of names – some even too obscene but I stayed on course and remained focused,” she said, adding: “The most important thing is for the aspirants to know their area well and to map the people’s needs,c hallenges and offer practical solutions.”

Patel, however, bemoaned violence, which she said was mostly perpetrated by men targeting women, saying such acts were retrogressive to the 50:50 Campaign.

The parliamentarian, who is also UDF Vice President for the Eastern Region, cited her own recent experience where she had to run for her dear life during a botched primary election in her constituency.

“They nearly killed me and I had to flee,” she said. “In our party,  UDF, we do not condone violence and whoever perpetrates it is removed from the party, so, I’m just waiting to see what happens next,” added Patel.

Journalists conducted random interviews in Patel’s constituency to appreciate people’s perception of women and power and most of the interviewees hailed Patel for initiating development in the area.

“Hon. Lillian Patel has served us well for three consecutive years from 1994 – 2009. Then we elected a man in 2009 but we soon realized our mistake and elected Patel again in 2014,” said Senior Group Mkopo of Traditional Authority Bwananyambi.

Group Village Headman Nombo of Traditional Authority Bwananyambi also described Patel as a development-conscious leader and a ‘living testimony that women can make better leaders.’

Out of 12 constituencies, Mangochi has two female parliamentarians and only one female councilor out of 34.

Meanwhile, over 53 women are aspiring for parliamentary and local government positions and the 50:50 Campaign Management Agency is supporting the women with coaching and publicity.

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