British High Commissioner to Malawi, Holy Tett, has urged female Members of Parliament (MPs) to be strong if they are to contribute effectively to the country’s development.
Tett, who was speaking at a retreat for Parliamentary Women’s Caucus in Mangochi on Saturday, said Malawi needs women’s involvement in decisionmaking processes.
“Female parliamentarians need to be strong and committed to stand up for their values which they believe can help move the country forward.
“However, we understand that just like in Britain, the working environment for female MPs in Malawi is not all that favourable. But the prevailing positive trends in the country can help women to advance their agenda if they are focused,” she said.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Catherine Gotani-Hara, said women sometimes fail to contribute to debate in Parliament due a hostile environment which men create during deliberations.
However, Gotani-Hara urged stakeholders to capacitate female parliamentarians for them to withstand pressure in the august House.
Gotani-Hara said the National Assembly has set aside a Gender Agenda to double the current number of female MPs to 90 during the next general elections. “But for this to happen, we appeal to development partners to support female MPs so that they have some physical development projects to show during campaign for re-election in future general elections,” she said.
In her remarks, Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, Mary Navicha, said the government will try to create enabling regulations to allow female MPs to contribute to addressing national challenges through legislation.
Navicha, however, expressed concern with some male MPs who harass female MPs in Parliament, something which she said prevents more women from meaningfully participating in debate.
During the retreat, which was sponsored by Oxfarm among other partners, female MPs were trained to handle media interviews, resources mobilisation and entrepreneurship.