In their drive to retain female parliamentarians, members of the Women Caucus of Parliament are sensitising Malawians to the significance of having female representatives in their constituencies.
They are visiting constituencies held by female parliamentarians to boost their retention come 2019.
Chairperson for the Women Caucus of Parliament Jessie Kabwila argues that they were instrumental in moving legislation such as the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act; and Trafficking in Persons constitutional amendment.
Speaking as part of the delegation that visited Naomi Kilekwa’s Mulanje South East constituency, Kabwila told constituents that:
“In general, you could also look at the way we handled issues of hunger, water and electricity. We consider things that are helpful to women and children. So, the gospel we are preaching is that in 2019, people should vote for women MPs.
“We want all 32 female MPs to return to Parliament after 2019 elections and have even more. When we get into Parliament, our purpose is not partisan politics, but improving the lives of Malawians,” she said.
Key among the challenges at Mulanje South East is the need for a bridge across Lichenya River to ease the problems of pregnant women and children crossing over for maternity needs and education respectively.
“We have a number of challenges. Pregnant women have difficulties crossing the river to go to Milonde Health Centre to access health services. Children also have to cross the river to go to school. With my fellow MPs now aware what a big challenge it is, we will all speak with one voice in Parliament to help people of this area,” said Kilekwa.
Senior Chief Mabuka said people have died at Lichenya River during rainy seasons.
“This river swells up in the rainy season. We have lost many lives as people tried to cross over to the other side for health and education services,” he said.
As a temporary measure, Kilekwa provided a boat to ferry people across.
Mulanje District Commisisoner Reinghard Kaweta-Chavula was encouraged by the MPs’ visit.
“When somebody comes to see what you are doing, you feel motivated. We are motivated, too, as a council. We will work hand in hand with the MP and the Ministry of Transport and Public Works to construct the required bridge,” she said
MP for Mulanje West Patricia Kaliati also called on continued support for female MPs.
“Hunger, agriculture, climate change, education and electricity are affecting women. With climate change and lack of electricity, for example, women walk long distances to fetch firewood and water. Women understand these issues from a woman’s point of view,” she noted.
There has been a slow, but steady increase in women MPs, according to Women and Power, Representation and influence in Malawi’s Parliament report.
The report indicates that the number of women parliamentarians was 43 in 2009, representing 22.3 percent, but in 2014, women MPs won just 16.6 percent of the total.