2019 is for you, dear Mum!

Hon Folks, the number of Malawians who have opted to vote with their feet in next year’s tripartite polls is alarming.

Of the 17 districts where voter registration has taken place, only Nkhotakota and Chikwawa have registered slightly more voters now than those that registered for the 2014 polls.

The rest—Kasungu, Salima, Dedza, Dowa, Mchinji, Ntchisi, Lilongwe, Ntcheu, Blantyre, Mwanza, Balaka, Neno, Thyolo, Phalombe and Mulanje—have registered way below the 2014 figures.  In Blantyre and Balaka registered voters in 2018 constitute a mere 83 percent of the 2014 numbers. It’s as if population growth stagnated with economic hardships!

The low turnout for registration is likely to result in lower turnout of voters on the voting day which, in turn, will yield much lower valid votes after the null and void votes are discarded.  At stake here is the capacity to ensure that elections reflect the will of the majority.

That said, we have women to thank for believing in our democracy despite the fact they feed on crumbs when it comes to sharing the national cake.

MEC says, women represent 54 percent of those who have registered so far in the first five phases, the remaining 46 percent being men. Even in the dominant category of the youth under35 years old, 55 percent are females! Women’s votes are the real deal in 2019!

There may be slight changes to the ratios of male and female voters as registration progresses but it’s likely that women can be anything but an insignificant group in the forthcoming polls. In fact, their numerical supremacy has probably been a factor in all the past general or tripartite elections.

What has been missing is acknowledgement of the value of women’s collective voting power. They have what every contender in the presidential race needs to occupy the State House.

Kamuzu used to say “educating a woman is educating the nation.” It’s the truth the whole world recognises; hence, the gender equality campaign.

Studies have shown that nations that have lowered barrier of entry for women to the boardroom perform relatively better on development and the enjoyment of improved living standards.

In Malawi, we are very good at talking about women empowerment. Now there is the 50:50 campaign. Yet, there is hardly much being done to create an enabling environment for more women to take up leadership roles especially in politics where decisions for running or ruining the country are made.

If 50:50 doesn’t happen in parliamentary or local polls where people rise through the ballot, why does it not happen in Cabinet where ministerial positions are shared by appointment?

Women must seriously consider giving their votes to a presidential candidate whose manifesto has a good and balanced package of pledges for them, including the pledge to increase the number of women in decision making roles both in the public and private sectors.

So far, women have been patronised to think it’s a good deal to vote for politicians who only come to them in election times masquerading as good Samaritans. The politicians give away maize, sugar, money and other freebies. In turn, they expect the women to return the favour by voting for them.

Once in power, they expect the women to patronise their rallies, compose songs of praise, sing and dance for the politicians—mostly men—who savour it all while seated in a comfy podium.

We have done five elections and the forthcoming one is the sixth. The electorate ought to be more familiar with the tricks politicians play to woo votes. Now is the time to be smarter.

Why should women vote for a man who in turn fills 80 percent of the Cabinet posts with fellow men? Why should they put into power a man who doesn’t think women ought to have equal right to land? Why should they cast their vote for someone who woo them with handouts without articulating a plan to get them out of poverty?

For presidential candidates, strategising to harvest the highest number of women votes is strategising for the occupation the State House. If they don’t know that, let them stay out in the cold. Deny them your vote.

As a child of my dear Mum, I will also use my vote to show the door to politicians who dare waffle on women empowerment. I’m sure many other male voters will do likewise.

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