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The Value of Our Vote: Much at Stake as We Await the Vote in Malawi

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

Photo by Times Group

T’is the Election year, the year Malawians decide the fate of their country after a questionable and quite trying five years.

Highlights that saw to Malawians finally standing and saying enough is enough: we have and are experiencing the anger from women in Malawi standing and saying enough is enough, the youth standing up and demanding their rights and the rights to choose.

We have experienced scandals, corruption on such interesting levels that we attracted international attention. And did I mention how we found ourselves on the top 2 or do I say bottom two of the poorest countries in the world, more than once that is? What a prestigious legacy to leave behind, or perhaps not, depending on how the elections go!

This year’s elections will see a breathtaking presence of the youth and women running for different positions, a clear indication of Malawians having had enough of the state of our country.

The political environment in Malawi has not been the friendliest to the youth and to women as the stereotypes are often clouding our judgment to say the youth are much too young to be leaders of our country. And women, well, where can I start? From the statements saying women must stick to what they know best, insinuating the “typical” woman must be focused on being a home maker rather than a decision maker.

Malawi has got to be one of the countries that looks very impressive on paper, with her top-notch policies, presented with the right wording that would please any donor just as a plagiarized dissertation looks when presented to a supervisor, a little on the too good to be true side of facts.

You would think that from our policies on youth and gender equality, that Malawi is on a sure path to achieving a gender-equal and youth-friendly nation, an inclusive political machinery where citizens’ needs are heard and polices are implemented.

To quote the Foreword of the National Gender Policy 2015, President Mutharika asserts that “My Government is committed to gender parity, women empowerment and upholding of women’s rights as a prerequisite to poverty reduction and sustainable development.” Although a policy enacted to further the efforts towards gender equality, end gender-based violence and encourage women’s empowerment, we still sit here today, waiting for the results. In 2019, after four years of alarmingly rising statistics from gender-based violence in all its manifestation, teenage pregnancies, rape and harassment, the deafening silence from our government around human rights violations and rising unrest around killings of people living with albinism, the questions on our minds surpass the answers we have before us. Could we really sit here and claim we have a government for the people?

Consider this, Malawi’s financial status is known for its deterioration and each year continues to be pitiful yet impregnated with news articles of promises regarding how this is the year we shall see change. The tales are always skewed towards how this is the year that Malawi shall no longer depend on donor funds. And yet, each passing year we find ourselves reading in the same newspapers from the same people admitting Malawi is broke and how our economy is failing. The lips of politicians, however, move to the uplifting rhetoric of how we are poised as a nation to doing better and that Malawi will surely thrive. Dare I point out that, in all financial demise, we have had one very common denominator as the Minister of Finance? It beats me that this may simply be a question of coincidence, as one can clearly see how this just might be one of the overseen reasons for our financial deterioration.

Not to cause offence, but dare I also point out the significant lack of youth representation in our government? And no, I do not mean our wonderfully-placed leaders in charge of the youth’s wellbeing and citizenry who are well over the universally defined age limit of the youth.

One may also blame the inactivity of the youth, or lack of effort thereof, as much as one would the constantly closed doors and faux efforts made simply to massage the optics for our international development partners. All this for the sake of appearing – to the world – of somewhat international quality insofar as being a nation supporting its youth population.

As for women, those in politics continue to constantly face discrimination for the deemed “inability to lead,” which has led to a lot of discouragement for women’s participation in politics. The few who have stuck their necks out and forward-marched into politics have endured discrimination and harassment in many forms, an example being the recent newspaper cartoon of Joyce Banda depicting the objectification of women parading before male peers.

We seem to be in denial of just how much women do and the fact that women will just as ably – if not better – contribute to changing the status of our nation, given the chance. While I am aware of how much this statement is debatable, I stand by it because women can and will change the state of our nation. Already, they have shown how their love for country transcends partisan and ethnic boundaries when, in light of the politically-charged violence towards female politicians, women from the plethora of our political parties came together to condemn the physical and mental attacks. For them, the issue addressed was it is women that are being victimized and violated in the name of politics. This moment, to women, will stand in our history regardless of whether the rest of our leaders choose to acknowledge it or not.

We have spent years to continuously deplored the state of our country, aside from being The Warm Heart of Africa. We are quite popular for the ability to be so corrupt, accompanied by the poorest country in the world award. Does it not bother you? I suppose this is one of the questions we can hope to be answered after the elections, which could not come any sooner.

As we approach the elections, we can hope in anticipation that pressing issues such as the corruption, which continues to be a burden and a huge barrier against the fight against poverty and hunger in Malawi, will have a real chance to be addressed. The degrading gender inequalities in our country that have outlived many, our growing population, the state of our health sector, especially the insufficient medical supplies and flooding hospitals, sexual and reproductive health and rights (see my article on this by clicking here), teenage, early and unwanted pregnancies, sexual education, unsafe abortions and STIs and HIV/AIDs and youth disempowerment and weak participation all must be accorded the opportunity to be paid the right attention.

There is no doubt that change can be achieved in unity, as a country, as one Malawi.


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