Malawian women face an uphill struggle in terms of finding entry points into the political fray. By 2014, women representation in parliament was at 16.66% while female representation in local councils out of 453 wards, only 52 were women. Patriarchy and cultural attitudes increase the challenges faced by females. A lot of the interventions focus on issues on advocating for increased numbers in decision making processes but often ignore the foundational issues that reinforce patriarchy and negative cultural practices that impede women’s access to leadership positions.
There are a number of challenges that remain to women’s leadership in Malawi. Creating an enabling environment for constructive engagement can help overcome such challenges, by creating space for access to political processes, transparency and accountability, gender awareness, capacity building and financial resources
Towvirane Organisation, with support from the Dutch government through Hivos is implementing a 5 year project entitled “Women Empowered for Leadership (WE4L)” in Mzimba, Rumphi and NkhataBay Districts. The project aims to increase women’s participation in leadership positions. Some of the objectives of the project are to: (i) Increase number of women holding and taking part in public administration positions at sub-national level; (ii) Support women leaders to have strong and clear voice in politics and society through strong and effective communication skills; (iii) Increase public awareness on women leadership at sub-national level; (iv) Build the capacity and support women holding leadership positions and those aspiring for leadership.
Meet Brandina, carrying the torch for women leaders in the community
Brandina Mshali, aged 43 with 4 children is a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) aspiring councillor for the Henga-Phoka Ward in Rumphi North Constituency, Rumphi District. In an interview with Tovwirane Project staff she explained her determination in standing as councillor in the 2019 General Elections.
“For a long time we women have lagged behind in terms of attaining leadership positions. When the Community Based Educators (CBEs) that work hand in hand with Tovwirane in raising people’s awareness regarding women leadership explained to me the aim of the WE4L Project, I was so glad because I knew that my dream was being aided into becoming a reality”.
Brandina understands that even though campaign may not be straightforward for poor women they can still make it as councillors.
“I can still do it. Yes, campaign may be tough for women of low financial status but if I tell people the truth they will vote for me. Currently I am the Women’s Desk Chairperson for my party for the whole constituency. People here know me and they have trust in me. They know I am not rich and they know that I walk on foot. The works of my hands testify for me because I have accomplished several goals I was tasked with as a desk chairperson therefore I am not worried. I also talked to my role model honourable Jappie Mhango who comes from this constituency on my desire to contest as ward councillor in the 2019 General Elections; he encouraged me to do so.”
Brandina runs a small restaurant business and also sells timber on a small scale. She is trying to raise funds in advance which will assist her in her campaign in terms of transport costs and other related costs.
“In conclusion, let me tell you that I do not necessarily need to give people money so that they vote for me” — says Brandina Mshali.
Compiled by Lusungu J. Jere. (Monitoring and Evaluation Officer: Tovwirane)