9 March 2014

Malawi: Women Say 50-50 Gender Target Within Grasp

Lilongwe — Malawian women say the long fought for 50-50 gender campaign is now within grasp arguing they only need support to attain it.

Chairperson for Non Governmental Organisations Gender Coordinating Network Emma Kaliya expressed the confidence in Lilongwe Saturday during the International Women's Day celebrations where Malawi's President Joyce Banda was also in attendance.

As one example, Kaliya made reference to the number of women that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has approved as legible candidates for Member of Parliament and councilor in the forth coming Tripartite Elections.

Kaliya argued that though the number of the approved women is far below that of men the number of the women still made a big difference and that with full support reaching the 50-50 target was inevitable.

"The Malawi Electoral Commission has so far approved 257 women as legible candidates for Member of Parliament positions and comparing that to the 169 seats in parliament already favours the 50-50 campaign," she said.

She further argued that if the women were given the necessary support and got into parliament, they would also be in the best position to catalyse the passing of pro-gender equality laws and bills.

However, the gender equality advocate pointed out that much as there was need for full support from both main and women in the quest, the women needed to be the first in supporting each other arguing that they could achieve so much more if they stood together and worked in unison.

On a different note, Kaliya condemned the culture of silence amongst women who suffer in silence while shielding cases of abuse and gender-based violence from their husbands.

She said: "Most of us women live exotic lives, suffering in silence and swallowing our grief when we are enduring a lot of pain from our abusive husbands.

"The time has come for us to stand up for ourselves and stop shielding abusive husbands."

The International Women's Day Commemoration is celebrated yearly world over and is supported by the United Nations (UN).

Representing the UN at the event was Alice Shackleford who concurred with Kaliya that Malawi had excellent potential of achieving the gender equality quest and that the country had already made so much progress on the same.

However, Shackleford pointed out that though there was commendable progress achieved there was still a lot of gap to be filled.

She said the UN would love, among others, to see the Gender Equality Act put into practical effect, effective implementation of the Marriage Age Bill and reduced maternal mortality rate.

She also echoed Kaliya that this was not a women's fight alone but that even men and boys had to be equally engaged.

The event was commemorated under the theme "Malawian Women Arise! The Time is Now."

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