By Kondwani Magombo:
At first, there was only one female, Maimuna Mwanyali, out of 10 councillors at Mangochi Town Council while the district council had all 24 seats in the chamber occupied by men.
In Parliament, Mangochi boasted two female representatives—namely Mangochi Nkungulu’s Aisha Mambo and Mangochi South’s Lillian Patel, out of 12 members of Parliament (MPs) in the district.
However, today the picture is different – the two parliamentarians have retained their seats and two more have made it to the National Assembly.
Again, Mangochi District and Town councils combined have gained six female councillors from just one last term.
Women representation in Parliament for the district now stands at 33.3 percent from 16.6, a development that has excited stakeholders.
“The 100 percent increase registered in female legislators is a remarkable achievement for Mangochi. In fact, the retention of the first two MPs is good news, too,” explains the district’s National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Public Trust Civic Education Officer, Turner Banda.
But the victorious women say it was not a stroll in the park.
“It was not easy. I have suffered insults and intimidation. But I am very thankful to God and the people of Mangochi South for re-electing me,” says Patel, who beat seven other contestants – among them six men – to get the seat.
Similarly, Mambo also went through the mill and came out triumphant after beating five men in the race.
“I am very thankful to Allah for the victory and I would like to assure all those who voted for me that voti yawo sanabetse [they did not cast their vote in vain],” Mambo says.
Perhaps more interesting is the battle fought by the two Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) newcomers, namely Victoria Kingston of Mangochi Central and Francesca Theula Masamba of Mangochi East.
The two MPs’ stories are unique in their own ways with Masamba beating four candidates including longest serving parliamentarian for the constituency since the inception of democracy in 1994, Abubakar M’baya.
On the other hand, Kingston emerged winner in a battle against six staunch and influential male contestants, an experience the new legislator says she would live to cherish.
“It feels good and exciting. I thank God, my family and party members and all men and women who entrusted me with their vote,” Kingston says.
“Emerging a winner in a competition where I was the only woman against six men was not easy. I am very proud,” she adds.
Kingston says her main task would revolve around promoting girl education and ensuring women and the elderly are prioritised in all programmes.
“I will establish a revolving fund using half of my salary to support women, children and the elderly,” she says.
The women’s invasion in the echelons of power in Mangochi has also been more pronounced in the town council chamber.
For the first time, four seats have gone to female councillors, translating to 40 percent representation.
These are DPP’s Sylvia Chitawo of Chigawe Ward and UDF’s Rashida Jawadu Kapichira of Chikole Ward, Hawa Wassie of Msukamwere Ward and Edina Jossi Yusuf of Mwasa Ward.
On the other hand, the all-male affair in Mangochi District Council chamber has come to an end following the coming in of two female councillors.
The new female councillors are DPP’s Ivy Faith Sande of Mangochi Malombe’s Maiwa Ward and UDF’s Fatima Chilawi of Namavi Ward in Mangochi Lutende Constituency.
Although the figure may appear negligible, the fact that it is from zero out of 24 that the two have emerged it is something worth celebrating.
Just like the legislators, the female local government representatives did not secure the seats on a silver platter.
“The campaign was my worst experience ever. My male competitors hurled insults at me, calling me all sorts of names. But I am glad that my supporters always stood by my side,” Sande explains.
Like many female contenders, Sande’s other challenge included lack of campaign materials, as she claims to have received little support from her party.
It would be very improper to finish painting the picture of Mangochi women’s victory without mentioning the 50:50 Campaign Management Agency and the Icelandic International Development Agency (Iceida).
Iceida injected K37 million into the 50:50 campaign to support all female councillors in Mangochi to sell themselves to the electorate.
The 50:50 Campaign Management Agency was the implementing entity of the activities in collaboration with Nice, local community and national media institutions, line sectors at council level and the civil society.
Activities included parading the female aspirants around their respective wards, conducting panel discussions, debates, trainings and football bonanzas, among others.
Although there were some bottlenecks, the female councillors and all those who contested and failed attest to the crucial role the 50:50 Campaign played in wooing support for women.
“I am thankful to the 50:50 Campaign; it has played a role especially through the parades and the bonanzas,” Sande says.
She further says the only challenge was that campaign materials like cloth came late when the campaign period was almost over.
The women, therefore, are of the view that if the materials and other key activities were available in time, Mangochi would have registered a record representation of female councillors.
For Nice and the 50:50 Campaign Management Agency, the achievements registered so far are something worth writing home about.
The campaign’s monitoring and evaluation manager, Chawezi Tembo, says the initial achievement registered is an indication of a society that is opening up.
“The increasing numbers of female representatives is sending a message that religious and traditional nomenclature is now beginning to accommodate female leadership,” Tembo says.
Nevertheless, Tembo acknowledges that, nationwide, the picture was not good as the country has replaced 26 women in Parliament instead of increasing the figure.
“Retention programme has not worked. Much as the number has increased in parliament by 10 from 32 to 42, it remains a tall order for the campaign and other programmes that worked towards achieving gender balance,” Tembo says.
He further says political affiliation and performance had taken its toll on the women parliamentarians.
However, given how Mangochi councils have fared in retention of councillors, it is, perhaps, an indisputable fact that the six new female councillors had waged a fierce war to penetrate into the male dominated territory.
Out of the 24 councillors Mangochi District Counci l had last term, 23 councillors are not returning to the chamber and only one, Montfort Mathews Scotch – Malembo Ward– has retained his seat.
At the town council, the entire unit that served in the previous term has been replaced by a new set.—Mana
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues