In the run up to the 2019 Tripartite Elections, Every Woman has introduced a 50-50 Campaign Slot page. This page is meant to promote female parliamentary aspirants and activities or events in line with the 50-50 campaign. Towards the elections, our reporter Brenda Twea shall engage female aspirants for insights about their political careers, specifically what they have to offer and what sets them apart. To tell your story as a female aspirant, write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
The beginning of Esther Mcheka-Chilenje’s political journey followed a call from people, under the leadership of her ‘political god-father,’ the late Gwanda Chakuamba.
“The late Chakuamba saw in me the leadership that would take care of the woes of the people of Nsanje North, and be the role model to many girls and women,” explains the legislator, who is also the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
Apart from that, she argues that the constituents of Nsanje North—being gender sensitive—decided to go for a female legislator.
Driven by passion to change the lives of her constituents, Mcheka-Chilenje has initiated a lot of developments that will have a lasting impact on the people.
These include the construction of Osiyana Rural Hospital, Sankhulani Model Primary School, Fatima Tele-centre, Fatima Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) Hall, Masenjere CDSS girls’ hostel and Chigwamafumu school blocks.
Electrification of Chinyanje, Kalulu, Chuluchamkango and Namilembe trading centres and the rehabilitation of irrigation schemes such as Masenjere, Muona and Makhapha are also part of her achievements.
Her work as MP has also seen boreholes drilled and others maintained across the constituency.
Nonetheless, she says there are a myriad of challenges she has encountered as a female politician.
“Within the public domain, male chauvinism has been very prevalent. This affected me so much in the 2009 general elections. Men had an upper hand during the campaign in my constituency. I have also faced challenges from fellow women.
“The pull-her-down syndrome is still common at all levels in our society. My fellow women have either discouraged me or simply not supported my development projects for the mere reason that I am a woman in politics,” she narrates.
Mcheka-Chilenje hopes that the 50:50 Campaign and the He/She campaign will thwart some of these challenges during the 2019 tripartite elections.
She is one of the MPs contesting again in 2019, and she aims at finishing her projects.
“As stated above, some projects I initiated are still under way and need more time to finish. These include Osiyana Rural Hospital, Thabwa-Muona Road, Namilembe CDSS, construction of dykes on Ruo River and rechannelling it to its natural course as well as completing the Thyolo-Thekerani-Bangula Road, and Ntayamoyo Bridge,” she says.
Mcheka-Chilenje is a trained teacher with a Masters in Leadership and Change from Leeds Beckett University, UK; a Bachelors degree in Agriculture Education from the University of Malawi’s Bunda College, a Diploma in Education from Domasi College of Education and a teacher’s certificate from Blantyre Teachers’ College.
“I joined the teaching profession because of my father. With my professional excellence, I was promoted to the position of Primary School Education Adviser (PEA)—the position I held when called into politics in 2004,” she explains.
First-born in a family of nine, Esther was born on June 11 1965 in Namanya Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mlolo, Nsanje.