Activists want Mutharika stripped of UN role

President Peter Mutharika

Rights activists have asked the United Nations to strip President Peter Mutharika of a UN ambassadorial role for appointing only three women to his 20-member cabinet.

The Malawi leader is the UN’s HeforShe Champion for Malawi.

President Peter Mutharika
Mutharika speaking at a HeforShe event

His new cabinet announced yesterday has three female ministers – Jean Kalirani at Lands, Housing and Urban Development; Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Cecilia Chazama; and Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Grace Chiumia.

The low number of females in the cabinet has angered activists under the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) who have demanded the immediate removal of Mutharika as HeforShe Champion.

In a letter addressed to the UN headquarters in New York, the activists – Timothy Mtambo, Beatrice Mateyo, Billy Mayaya and Gift Trapence – say they expected Mutharika to be at the forefront of gender equality in Malawi and to serve as a public champion for change.

The HRDC in their letter observes that Mutharika has continued to disregard HeforShe guidelines citing his 2016 appointment of only one female commissioner among the seven commissioners of the Malawi Human Rights Commission.

“His recent appointment of cabinet ministers on 7th November, 2018 is also a key indicator of his lack of commitment for HeforShe aspirations,” reads part of the letter.

The human rights defenders further say that the issue of gender of equality and women inclusion is a matter of principle and it is non-negotiable hence their demand for Mutharika to be removed as champion.

In a separate statement, Mateyo who is also executive director of Coalition for the Empowerment of Women and Girls says she is appalled by Mutharika’s conduct.

“I expected that this accolade bestowed on him would have translated into action where he would be at forefront of promoting gender equality in appointing women to positions, serving as a public champion for change and not just mere rhetoric,” she said.

The HeforShe initiative is a solidarity movement for gender equality that provides a systematic approach and targeted platform on which men and boys can engage and become change agents towards the achievement of gender equality.