Emma Kaliya – Malawi

Emma Kaliya – Malawi

Date: June 16, 2015
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Engaging government at national level

Malawi’s government realises the need to address gender disparities through broad-based partnerships, committed leadership, multi-sectoral strategies, and strong involvement of stakeholders at every level in our society so that they share what they have learned through many decades of support and policy advocacy. This broad consultative approach enabled gender activists in Malawi to actively participate in all the processes to craft the SADC Gender Protocol at national level; and, this approach also gave a chance to most Malawians to understand the Protocol well before its adoption.

Although the ministry responsible for gender was not represented at the 2005 Gaborone SADC Summit, CSOs from Malawi attending the parallel SADC NGOs meeting had an opportunity to lobby the Malawian ministers present to support the 50/50 target of women in decision-making adopted by the Heads of State and Government during the Summit. This marked the start of my personal involvement in the SADC Protocol processes.

My involvement at the Gaborone meeting gave me strength to start advocating for the 50/50 target at the national level, long before our gender machinery made their official statement. The ministry officials waited for the official communications from the SADC Secretariat before taking action, while I began to mobilise my fellow Network members to join me in this initiative. My involvement in the Alliance also gave me so much information to share at the national level, even though was in its early stages of the (Protocol) campaign in 2005.

Through my leadership, the NGOGCN and the Ministry of Women and Child Development jointly organised the first National Consultative workshop, with financial support from the SADC Alliance. The aim was to give Malawians a chance to discuss and comment on the (earlier) draft Protocol. The national machinery did not have resources to finance this kind of workshop, and solely depended on the financial support that the NGOGCN secured from the Alliance.

At this point, government recognised the substantive contributions from the NGOGCN around the Protocol, and the government included me on their delegation to the subsequent SADC Protocol meetings. They knew that I would make meaningful contributions to the process, because of the vast ideas that I had from the Alliance.

The NGOGCN was a valuable resource to the government in this process. This was proven when they technically supported our second National Consultative meeting in preparation for the SADC Senior Officials meeting in Namibia (2008). The government was quite aware that I had an institutional memory of all the processes, because my representation at national and regional level meetings remained consistent, while government kept changing its officials. I soon had dual representation – in the Alliance and government forums.
The mutual understanding, as well as the trust, that developed between the NGOGCN and government enabled our relationship to remain intact throughout the process. Due to this relationship, we again agreed to jointly design and implement a National 50/50 Programme around the 2009 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, even before the Protocol was adopted. This joint initiative further illustrates the honest relationship that prevails between us. The government continues to rely on my technical advice on issues regarding the Protocol, and there are times when the ministry officials engage us to lobby on sensitive issues with other high level authorities.

This helped us a lot, because they gave us some insights on the processes and how we could avoid touching on some sensitive areas. We got the blessing of most departments and they did assure us of their support at the (2008) Summit in South Africa.”

Emma Kaliya, Malawi NGO Gender Coordinating Network

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