History was made on June 19 when Malawi elected the first ever female Speaker of Parliament, a development gender and rights activists say is a victory for the country's democracy and efforts for gender inclusion. In the 55 years of independence Malawi has never had a female Speaker of Parliament.
Catherine Gotani Hara, opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) legislator beat ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Esther Mcheka Chilenje by 97 votes to 93.
A holder of a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Malawi and Postgraduate Degree International Development and Project Planning and Management, University of Brighton (UK), Hara has also served as a cabinet minister before. She served as Minster of Health, Minister of Environment, Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, and Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works.
She has legislative experience having served as member of Parliament from 2009 to 2014.
Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, gender analyst Ngeyi Kanyongolo, described Hara's election as victory for democracy and growth of gender equality.
NGO-Gender Coordination Network chairperson Barbara Banda said the election of a female Speaker was a great moment for those fighting for women's rights and equality.
"Political will has carried the day. We will continue to with such strategies to address existing gaps and leaving no one behind. Our lobbying has worked wonders," Banda said.
The NGO Gender Network added that "this is a landmark step in the attainment of equality and non discrimination in Malawi as the ascendancy of the Honourable member to this highest office is a positive and transformative step in the creation of a society that promotes equality."
Political analyst Dr Augustine Magolowondo described the election of Hara as a move in the right direction as the country implements programmes on gender inclusion.
"Her election is quite key as the country is implementing gender inclusion programmes. It puts Malawi amongst countries that want to see more women in decision making position. It definitely is a good and encouraging development," Dr Magolowondo said.
The 50-50 Campaign Management Agency, an agency which supported female candidates in the May 21 Tripartite Elections said Hara's ascendancy to the position of Speaker of Parliament meant that "our agenda to have more women in decision making positions was being heard."
"We have so many commitments as a country but sometimes we lag behind when it comes to implementation. We are definitely celebrating the election of Hara as Speaker of Parliament. We hope more women will also enjoy public appointments as they come," said 50-50 Campaign Management Agency team leader Viwemi Chavula.
On its website the 50-50 Campaign Management Agency posted: "The 50:50 Campaign Management Agency would like to congratulate Rt. Hon.
Catherine Gotani Hara for being elected as the 1st Female Speaker of Malawi's Parliament, and the 4th Female Speaker in the SADC Region."
Joseph Kayira is a journalist at Montfort Media in Malawi. This story is part of the GL News and Blogs Service.