The African Union (AU) has honoured former president Joyce Banda and four other prominent African women politicians and entrepreneurs as ‘The Living Legends’ in recognition of their efforts in paving the way.
The awards, the brainchild of the AU and the African Union/Diaspora African Forum (AU/DAF), were presented last Friday in collaboration with the Republic of South Africa, AU Commission and New Partnership for African Development (Nepad) Planning and Coordination Agency during an awards banquet at the 25th Ordinary Session of AU Heads of States and Government in Sandton City, Johannesburg.
Besides Banda, other awardees were Nigerian businessperson Dorothy Anyiam-Osigwe, Liberian president and Africa’s first female head of State Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Winnie Mandela, South African anti-apartheid heroine and estranged wife of South Africa’s first black president the late Nelson Mandela.
The awards were also in line with the summit’s theme Year of Women Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063.
According to an AU statement on the awards, head of mission (AU) Diaspora African Forum Committee, Erieka Bennett, said the awards were conceived as a platform to recognise African women and African descent who have contributed to the struggle for political, social and economic independence at various levels of engagement with excellence.
In her acceptance speech, Banda thanked the event organisers for the award saying sometimes people work towards improving other people’s livelihoods without knowing that others are noticing.
In April 2012, Banda became Malawi’s first female president after ascending to the presidency in line with constitutional order following the death of her hitherto estranged boss, Bingu wa Mutharika.
She completed Mutharika’s five-year term in May 2014 but lost to Peter Mutharika and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the country’s first tripartite elections.
Said Banda: “I have learnt through my own experience that women and girls and the underprivileged need our support and encouragement if they are to break free from bonds of poverty and abuse.”
Banda has been outside Malawi since her election loss and has been trotting across Africa, Europe and the United States of America. Her People’s Party (PP) and her official spokesperson have been assuring Malawians of her return for some months now.