Malawi's Speaker of the National Assembly, Catherine Gotani-Hara, has challenged girl-children not to lose focus in their fight for gender equality as well as pursuit for excellence in education and other socio-economic activities.
Speaker Gotani Hara: I applaud Plan International for investing in #GirlsGetEqual campaign Winners of ReWriteHerStory Patience Chipsagule condemned the misuse of the social media Part of the audience
Hara has also made an impassioned appeal to the media to provide equal space to men and women in their coverage of their stories.
"We have what it takes to make it happen, we have it all to make #GirlsGetEqual triumph and make our country a role model to the global village. It is time to #ReWriteHerStory. My special appeal to the media is this: you are key stakeholders, as what you write, portray and broadcast shapes perceptions and how girls and women view ourselves and view world events," she said.
Hara was speaking in ilongwe on Wednesday at the commemoration of the 2019 International Day of the Girl.
The commemoration was organised by Plan International Malawi and was held under the theme: Empowering Girls for a Brighter Tomorrow.
She said while the some norms and practices have been engraved in Malawians that as 'that's the way things should be', people need to take a moment and critically scrutinise the status quo in ensuring that the representation of women and girls does not eclipse their goals, ambitions, prospects and of course self-esteem.
"We need to do more, we can do more, and indeed, we have to join hands in spearheading this crusade to push for equality between boys and girls, men and women. This must be championed by us -there is no two ways about it!" Hara said.
The Speaker therefore emphasised the need for the media to take a leading role in changing the mindset of the people towards girls and women.
"The media influences masses through priming, agenda-setting, framing and cultivation. Therefore, your power to influence can raise or lower support of an issue or person via coverage and non-coverage," Hara said.
"We are counting on you to support #ReWriteHerStory and represent girls and women in the media in the best way possible. Together, we can change the status quo and overcome existing stereotypes," she added.
Hara commended Plan International Malawi for organising the event, saying it provided a platform for the stakeholders to reflect, refine, rejuvenate and recharge.
"I applaud Plan International, for investing in the #GirlsGetEqual campaign and striving for girls' representation, freedom and power. I urge all of us here today to support the campaign by committing to challenging stereotypes, and calling out inequality where we see it. For those of us who are women and girls, let us speak out, make ourselves heard, and claim our space in society," she said.
Plan International Malawi Country Director, Phoebe Kasoga, said the 2019 International Day of the Girl challenges every Malawians to actively pursue an agenda that, not only empowers girls and young women, but also changes both the visible and invisible worldly views about them.
Kasoga further urged stakeholders need to reflect on the discourses that girls are subjected to, including how girls and young women are viewed and portrayed in the media
"Let us reflect on the stereotypes that have chained girls -turning abnormalities into normalities; and collectively #ReWriteHerStory to inspire, motivate and empower girls to conquer a brighter tomorrow and pursue unlimited prospects. Today is the day we must all embrace to re-look at values, perception, honor and motivation which girls in Malawi and beyond are subjected to," Kasoga said.
One of the girls who attended the event, Patience Chipsagule, condemned the misuse of the social media to attack the modesty and dignity of women and girls in the country.
Chipsagule observed that, unlike boys, girls are mostly portrayed as sex objects on the social media.
"We implore the media to help tackle end stereotype," she said.