The 50:50 Campaign Management Agency says despite improved numbers of women winning in this year’s tripartite elections, the women faced a number of challenges.
Presenting a statement in Blantyre yesterday, ActionAid Malawi women’s rights theme manager Chikumbutso Ngosi Ndaferankhande said patriarchy that is deeply entrenched in society which regards women as unfit to lead is partly to blame for the challenges.
She said: “Political party primary elections displayed systematic efforts towards barring women from actively participating in leadership positions. During the primary elections, the 50:50 Campaign Management Agency received over 30 complaints from women related to irregularities in their [primaries] management.
“It is important to note that party politics is not gender neutral as female politicians lacked assets that male politicians possessed when they entered the political arena. This revealed that we are dealing with a highly sophisticated and entrenched structural imbalance. As a result of this, 117 women contested as independents.”
The agency also expressed concern over gender-based violence, both physical or emotional, saying despite such cases being reported and availability of laws, some have not been dealt with.
Commercialisation of politics was another issue the agency tackled.
“It has become almost impossible to run a political campaign in Malawi without spending huge sums of money. It is now a culture that politicians have to pay voters to win and voters are prone to voter apathy because they fall for political elites.
“The repercussions for commercialisation of politics stretch far and wide from the high level of a country’s economic prospects to the lower units of the future of a family,” said Ndaferankhande.
During the 2014 elections, only 32 women made it to Parliament. However, this year’s projection shows that 43 women have received majority votes.
The 50:50 Campaign Management Agency team leader Viwemi Chavula said although the figure is cause for celebration, they are worried that as a country, Malawi is still far from achieving the 50-50 representation in political positions.
The agency partnered the Women Lawyers Association (WLA) of Malawi to handle women aspirants issues on pro bono basis.
WLA president Tadala Chinkwezule said although legal processes take long, they are satisfied with their work.
“This assistance is open-ended. This means that we have not set deadlines for our legal services because it is our way of assisting the community,” she said. Women representation in Parliament has been fluctuating since the first 1994 multiparty elections. In 1994, 10 women went to Parliament, in 1999 the number rose to 16, then 27 in 2004, 43 in 2009 then dropped to 32 in 2014. This year, 44 women have made it to Parliament out of 305 female candidates.