Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Africa Region Chairperson supports Malawi Women’s Role-modelling Conference to inspire future Women Parliamentarians ahead of elections 

The Malawi Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare in partnership with UN Women, the UNDP and the South African High Commission to Malawi, has convened a role-modelling conference for aspirant women Parliamentarians from 20 to 21 November 2018, in Lilongwe, Malawi. In preparation for the upcoming 2019 Malawi Tripartite General Elections, the Ministry of Gender has been working with the Women’s Caucus to encourage women to take part in the upcoming elections with over 800 women showing interest. This is in addition to the 32 women who are serving as Members of the Malawi Parliament, who have also expressed their intention to run for office once more. 

As part of their strategies, the women’s multiparty caucuses in Malawi have been visiting each other’s constituencies as a way of supporting women and expressing solidarity. The women’s role-modelling conference was convened to give women the opportunity to share the dialogue amongst each other and to hear from those who are currently in Parliament, those who are aspiring to become Parliamentarians and those that are part of the broader movement. The women’s role-modelling conference was held on the overall theme of: ‘Women in Politics: Learning from Mama Albertina Sisulu: A women of fortitude’. As part of celebrating the centenary of Mama Albertina Sisulu, an activist as well as one of the first women MPs during the first democratic Parliament in South Africa, the organisers of the conference also felt that sharing her life as a role model will inspire women aspirants. 

The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Africa Region, who is also the Deputy Chairperson of Committees in the South Africa Parliament, Hon. Angela Thoko Didiza, MP, spoke as the guest speaker at the conference about the work of the CWP and its programmes across the Africa Region and beyond. The CWP Chairperson also paid tribute to the life and work of Mama Albertina Sisulu. Click here to read the CWP Africa Chairperson’s speech at the conference.

During the conference, many women shared their experiences of campaigning within their constituencies. One of the hinderances shared was the lack of support from political parties. In some instances, this lack of support extends further to lack of resources and mobilization for campaign materials. However, through commitment and determination towards women’s emancipation, other women candidates have and do stand as independent candidates and have won their seats. 

Culture and religious stereotypes were seen as huge barriers to women’s participation in Parliament. Malawi women have had support from the women’s movement and non-governmental organisations as well as male champions for gender equality. Some academics and lawyers have been of great support in assisting women, even giving pro bono legal representation. At the end of the conference, many women delegates were confident that they will be able to gain some expertise through the experiences shared by serving women Parliamentarians, the Women’ Caucus as well as the Ministry of Gender, Children and Disabilty, UN Women and the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Africa Region.

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Updated 26 November 2018.

The Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) was founded in 1989 to increase the number of female elected representatives in Parliaments and legislatures across the Commonwealth and to ensure that women’s issues are brought to the fore in parliamentary debate and legislation. The network campaigns for gender equality in all spheres. 

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association connects, develops, promotes and supports Parliamentarians and their staff to identify benchmarks of good governance and the implementation of the enduring values of the Commonwealth. The CPA is an international community of around 180 Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures working together to deepen the Commonwealth’s commitment to the highest standards of democratic governance. 
 
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