High number of female aspirants impresses 50:50 campaigners

Shadow Members of Parliament and Ward Councillors presented their nomination papers in Karonga with 22 female candidates showing serious interest to contest.

The number of female aspirants which is said to be the highest in the history of elections in the lakeshore district, has been attributed to civil society organizations’ (CSOs) rigorous  campaign for equal representation in this race since June last year.

Female aspirants in KA Pic by Jordan Simeon-Phiri, MEC Stringer

At the close of presentation of nomination papers on Friday, five female aspirants had submitted Parliamentary forms while 17 women had presented their credentials for Local Government seats with two going as independent Members of Parliament and four as independent Ward Councillors respectively.

In an interview, project officer for Malawi Electoral Cycle Support (MECS) at Justice and Peace (JP) of Karonga Diocese, a CSO that is drumming up support for female representation with financial push from UN Women in the district, Moses Mwakisalu said he was extremely excited with the figure of those who have gone all the way up to presentation of nomination forms, describing it as a breakthrough for Karonga.

Mwakisalu said the determination that the 22 female aspirants have shown indicates that they are ready to take up the challenge of taking men head on in their Constituencies and Wards.

“As an organization we will continue rendering our support. We will continue mentoring them by providing capacity building and how they can sell their manifestos to the community at a cost effective way,” Mwakisalu said.

He further said that it is his prayer that all the 22 female aspirants should qualify after MEC scrutinizes their documents during the seven days it (MEC) set so that the number should not be trimmed.

Pan African Civic Educators Network (PACENET) in conjunction with Youth and Society (YAS) are other organizations that are working in the same district on equal representation campaign.

The organisations have congratulated all female aspirants who have made it to this stage and have since promised fireworks as they are also thrilled with the high number of women who have submitted their nomination papers in the district.

Speaking in an interview, executive director for Pacenet Steve Duwa said the 2019 tripartite elections are a litmus test not only in Karonga but Malawi in general that will weigh peoples’ mindset towards women in society.

Duwa said his organization will do all it can to source financial support from donors to enable these women achieve their goals of serving Malawians in elective positions.

“In fact we are overwhelmed with this development and we are ready to support these female aspirants by going on the ground and woo support from leaders, women and youths.

“We will take the campaign to their respective areas so that the community should know the importance of voting for women as women and youths are in large numbers in Malawi,” Duwa said.

In another interview, project coordinator for a Karonga based local nongovernmental organization (NGO) Foundation for Community Support Services (FOCUS), Robert Silungwe said the development is good for the district which has one female Ward Councillor out of 10 and not even a single female Parliamentarian representing one of the five constituencies.

Silungwe said his organization with funding from 50:50 Campaign Management Agency through Action Aid will fight tooth and nail to drum up support for women so that Karonga should break the record.

However, it remains to be seen if the country whose gender disparity percentage is very high will produce something worth bragging about in 2019 general elections. So far, there are 32 female Members of Parliament in the august house out of 193 and 56 Ward Councillors out of 461 Wards across Malawi.