As the campaign period heats up, women in Malawi have spelled out their aspirations for the next government.
“We demand no less than action!” said Women’s Legal Resources Centre (Wolrec) executive director Maggie Kathewera Banda at the launch of Women’s Manifesto last Thursday in Lilongwe.
Women of all walks attended the ceremony along with legislators, civil society representatives, government officials, donors, traditional leaders, academics and men for change. According to Banda, all political parties were invited and she warned them: “We [women] will vote for your parties and candidates if they promise to take into action our demands presented in the manifesto.”
The Women’s Manifesto is a political tool for advocacy developed by the Women’s Manifesto Movement (Woman), comprising representatives of different institutions promoting the rights of women and girls.
It is evident that the manifesto contains a united Malawian women’s voice and demands which they expect duty-bearers to fulfil at different levels.
However, what exactly do women want from the next government come May 21, 2019?
The manifesto is a call of to leave no woman behind. It raises numerous demands aimed at addressing serious challenges women and girls face in the country. These demands are directed at the government, NGOs, the private sector, political parties and other relevant stakeholders for action. Government is the primary duty-bearer.
Malawian women are making demands in eleven thematic areas.
They include women and education; women and health; women and economic empowerment; women and agriculture; women leadership, politics and governance; violence against women and girls as well as peace and security.
Other areas are social, religious and cultural issues; land, water and natural resources; environment; and marginalised and vulnerable groups, which include the elderly and people with disabilities.
Women and education tops the list because they realise that it is a powerful tool for socio-economic and political empowerment. Education offers women and girls knowledge, skills and self-confidence they need to buttress their self-development opportunities. Thus, women demand infrastructural changes in education so that it can facilitate their development.
On women and health, they lament about health issues that impinge their human rights. These include maternal health, HIV and Aids, sexual and reproductive health as well as access to health care.
Women demand increased budgetary allocation for the health sector to 15 per cent of the national budget in fulfilment of the Abuja Declaration.
Women are calling for training of medical personnel, especially for improved provision of female-friendly health services and maternity kits and screening for cervical and breast cancer.
Women shared real-life experiences, underlining the dehumanising state of maternity services in the country.
On economic empowerment, a woman, from Rumphi, was emphatic: “Women in Malawi are economically disempowered”.
Resolutely, women want the National Plan of Action on Economic Empowerment of Women to be operational and government to develop policies that empower women. They are also demanding access to capital, training and skills development. They also want government to establish Women’s Fund by 2019 and Women’s Bank by 2020.
Let those who have ears hear! The Women’s Manifesto makes women’s demand crystal clear.
It appears the women are determined to elect the leaders and parties who are ready to heed their demands.
Not only do women make up 70 percent of the agriculture labour force, but also the majority voters.
Veteran women’s rights activist Emma Kaliya aptly stated: “The manifesto will work as a tool for demanding accountability from duty-bearers and a basis for women to demand action when duty-bearers are complacent”.
Let those who have ears hear and do something about it.