Activities to commemorate the 1999 International Women's Day in Malawi focused on the theme "Women, Politics and Decision Making". The activities included: speeches by President, Bakili Muluzi and UN Resident Coordinator in Malawi, Terence Jones. There was a parade by women: in decision making positions, leaders of NGOs within all the sectors to highlight their work and products, shadow MPs (Members of Parliament) from all political parties for the May 25 parliamentary elections, and those intending to take part in the forthcoming local government elections. Women presented an appeal to the President Muluzi demanding the SADC protocol target of increasing women's participation at all level of decision making positions to 30% by the year 2005 honoured.
While there is a noticeable increase in the number of women appointed to leadership positions due to the present government's commitment to the protocol, clearly there is room to do more. In Malawi 8 women are chairpersons of statutory corporations out of 50; 100 women members of Boards of these corporations out of 375; 2 female High Court Judges out of 25; 2 female ambassadors out of 16; and 4 female Principal Secretaries out of 29.
A workshop was also organised which concentrated on challenges faced by prospective female candidates, how to come up with strategies for female candidates who will succeed as MPs and discuss criteria for selecting women who have excelled in Malawi for the purpose of honouring them during the IWD celebrations of year 2000. Discussions centred on politics as a career for women, the challenges female candidates face and how to respond to these challenges. Six panelists led discussions comprising 2 female MPs, 2 prospective female MPs and officials Institute for Democratic and Economic Affairs and Association for Women in Politics. Participants agreed that women candidates and other potential women leaders, be given training to prepare them for the challenges and competition in decision making positions. This training will focus on campaign strategies; public speaking, leadership skills; fundraising; gender sensitisation/ conscientisation; role of MPs and topical issues like HIV/AIDS, gender based violence, reproductive health. The UN Gender Coordinating Unit supports this initiative along with the Development Assistance Group on Gender. It was agreed that the unit should liaise with National Democratic Institute who has programmes of this nature and further examine how these organisations can support the training.
For more information contact Esnath Kalyati, at UNDP, Lilongwe.