Infuriated by a reduction of women from four to three in a 20-member Cabinet, rights activists have reported President Peter Mutharika to the United Nations (UN), accusing him of lacking political will to enhance women representation.
Reacting to the President’s new Cabinet hired on Wednesday night, some civil society organisations (CSOs) have also faulted Mutharika for drafting in Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) firebrand Southern Region governor Charles Mchacha as Deputy Minister of Homeland Security, saying the politician has recently launched verbal attacks on female politicians, especially those affiliated to newly formed United Transformation Movement (UTM) which predominantly comprises former DPP functionaries.
Consequently, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and the Coalition for the Empowerment of Women and Girls (Cewag) have asked the United Nations (UN) Women to strip Mutharika of his title as the HeforShe Champion.
In a letter dated November 8 2018 to UN Women headquarters in New York, the HRDC observes that Mutharika has consistently flouted principles of the HeforShe campaign, which challenge leaders to champion gender equality, among others.
Besides the recent Cabinet appointments, the HRDC also cites a 2016 example when the President appointed only one woman as a commissioner of the Malawi Human Rights Commission in a seven-member team.
In a separate statement, Cewag executive director Beatrice Mateyo said she expected the President as HeforShe champion to walk the talk.
The Gender Equality Act of 2013, for instance, requires 60:40 representation in public offices.
Mateyo alleged that Mchacha’s appointment smacked of a reward coming after he publicly branded some female politicians as ‘prostitutes’ for holding different politicial views.
Women’s Legal Resource Centre (Worlec) executive director Maggie Kathewera Banda said Mutharika’s action shows lack of political will and is frustrating efforts towards ensuring gender equality in Malawi.
But presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani defended Mchacha’s appointment, saying the politician does not insult women.
He said: “Honourable Mchacha has not been insulting women. But there are one or two specific women politicians who have decided to specialise in insulting the President and the First Lady personally in the name of politics.
“What Mchacha has been doing is to merely censure the foul language coming from these two frustrated women.”
On women empowerment, Kalilani said Mutharika has appointed more women into high positions in government than any of his predecessors.
The new Cabinet is a far cry from the 50:50 women’s representation campaign as Mutharika has reduced the number of women from four to three or from 20 percent to 15 percent.