Mal: Role of men to support women in politics overdue

Mal: Role of men to support women in politics overdue

Date: August 1, 2023
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 By Joseph Kayira, 

Balaka, 1 August 2023: In 2009, late President Bingu wa Mutharika did something that forever changed the perception of how Malawian politics should be practiced. He chose former President  Joyce Banda as his running mate in the presidential election. The pair won the presidential election with a landslide victory – and people attributed it to the ‘clever’ idea of involving  Banda.

Former President Banda went on to become Malawi’s first woman president and Africa’s second woman president. Despite the encouraging development in as far as promoting women participating in politics is concerned, Malawian women who want to get into politics are finding it hard to make inroads into mainstream politics.

It still remains “a man’s world” in politics in Malawi. Yet, there are capable women – just like Banda – who can deliver in politics. From politics to the corporate world, women find it hard to break even. They are frustrated, intimidated or told in plain terms that “you cannot afford this; you are a woman, this is a man’s job”.

Barbara Banda, chairperson of the Non-Governmental Organisations Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) says it is important that men should begin to support women who have interest to participate in politics. She says the country should open a new chapter to demystify perception that only men make good leaders.

She says women who participate in politics have the potential to lead and deliver just like their male counterparts. Banda adds that the need to support women participating in politics should begin with political parties and permeate down to communities.

“Political parties need to invest in women. Political leaders must implement policies that support women at the earliest possible time before elections. Parties must deliberately invest in women. Men should support and encourage women who have interest in politics,” Banda says.

She says over the years women have been intimidated and have to move around with bodyguards in fear of men who do not want to see them progress in politics.

“Women just like men, should not be subjected to political violence and intimidation because a few people believe they cannot deliver. Truth of the matter is that women have all it takes to deliver in politics. We have seen women who are supported delivering in politics or in the corporate world. The problem is that political parties have not invested in women; and society still thinks that its only men who can be leaders which is wrong,” Banda says.

In a country like Malawi where a woman rose to the presidency, the situation and the reasoning should have been different. But patriarchal is still deep-seated; the notion that only men should be leaders is also lingering in the minds of many – including influential leaders who should be making a difference.

“I also think the quotas can help as to increase the number of women in influential positions, especially in politics. There must be deliberate policies that support women to fill positions that are influential be it in politics, civil service or in the private sector. At the moment the terrain in politics shows that we still have fewer women in decision making positions. That must change,” Banda says.

She says the civil society, Non-Governmental Organisations and well-wishers seeking to support women participating in politics “should not wait until the last minute.”

“They should start supporting women who want to contest for positions in politics now. Sometimes assistance comes too late when women have already been discouraged or have little time to campaign,” she says.

She adds that men should lead the campaign to ensure that women are contesting on a level field. “We keep mentioning men because the majority of them hold decision making and influential positions.”

Women can do it

Humphreys Mvula, a veteran political commentator says women should be encouraged to join politics and fill positions from the grassroots level.

“It’s true that men have a role to play to encourage more women to participate in politics. It is also true that women themselves should show interest to join politics much earlier before elections. The trend has been that women only show up during elections.

“There are elite women who have all it takes to be in politics but are discouraged because politics is associated with violence and name-calling. Also important is the fact that key position are in the hands of men and women are relegated to lesser positions. Men should deliberately encourage women to join politics and vie for key positions in political parties,” Mvula says. Read more

 Joseph Kayira is a journalist and editor from Malawi. This article was first published by Montfort Media following media training on Women s Political Participation supported by International IDEA.

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