When a Woman Becomes President: Implications for Gender Policy and Planning in Malawi
Author(s)Mbilizi, Margaret Asalele
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AbstractRecently gender discourse in Malawi changed dramatically when Joyce Banda ascended to the office of president following the sudden death of the incumbent, Bingu Wa Mutharika. A relentless women’s rights advocate, Joyce Banda became the first woman president in Southern Africa and the continent’s second woman leader, after Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. President Banda has told the nation that gender equality and women empowerment shall remain the central policy priority of her government. She affirms her government’s commitment to increasing representation of women in decision making positions and is promising to scale up women’s economic empowerment activities. Against this backdrop this article examines the existing National Gender Machinery in Malawi within the context of having a gender activist as president. Will her passion for gender equality make a difference for gender policy and planning in Malawi? The article reports on a study that critically examines the existing National Gender Machinery and proposes mechanisms to improve its harmonization, coordination, and impact. The study finds that the reluctance by government decision makers to invest adequate resources or create relevant frameworks, strategies, mechanisms and accountability systems for implementing gender-related policies and programs is impeding the achievement of gender equality in this male dominated society. Finally the article provides an analysis of how a woman president might accelerate the process of gender mainstreaming and women empowerment in Malawi.