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AD14: In Malawi, women lag in political participation; support for women’s leadership declines

Happy Mickson Kayuni 14 Feb 2015 Malawi
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Key findings
  • Malawian women are less likely than men to discuss politics and to be interested in public affairs. While almost eight in 10 men (79%) say they discuss politics “occasionally” or “frequently,” only six in 10 women (65%) say the same. Interest in public affairs shows the same gap, 77% for men vs. 64% for women. These gender gaps have persisted or increased since 2002.
  • Women in Malawi are less likely than men to participate in political activities. While more than half (56%) of men say they attended a political rally in the previous year, only 44% of women did so. Women were also 8-12 percentage points less likely than men to attend a campaign meeting, persuade others to vote a certain way, or work for a political candidate.
  • The proportion of Malawians who say women should have the same chance as men of being elected to political office has declined since 2012, from 78% to 61%.

Despite having been led by southern Africa’s first female president, Malawi has made little progress toward equal political participation by women, Afrobarometer’s most recent survey suggests. Women in Malawi remain less likely than men to engage in political activities, and public support for women’s leadership has declined.

From a legal perspective, Malawi has made substantial progress in enhancing gender equality. Malawi’s Constitution states that women enjoy the same rights as men, and Malawi is a signatory to regional and international protocols encouraging gender equality, such as the 2008 Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development. The country has enacted several laws aimed at building gender equality, most notably the Gender Equality Act (2012). The Ministry of Women and Child Development and civil society organisations were instrumental in promoting women candidates in the 2009 and 2014 elections, mainly through their 50-50 campaign. Despite these endeavours and Malawi’s first female president (Joyce Banda) from April 2012 to March 2014, survey results show no significant headway toward increasing women’s participation in politics.

Happy Kayuni

Happy Mickson Kayuni is a professor in the University of Malawi’s Political and Administrative Studies Department in Zomba.