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Low women presence in boards worries activists

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By Wezzie Gausi:

Some of the country’s activists have expressed worry over the low representation of women in some of the newly reconstituted boards of directors of parastatals.

President Lazarus Chakwera, on Wednesday night announced the appointment of new board of directors for 67 parastatal organisations.

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Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson, Gift Trapence, said though the boards have professionals, which are a complete departure from previous boards, it is worrying to note that in some of the boards, there is zero representation of women, while in others the women representation does not meet the 40/60 threshold.

“Only in a few boards is where the 40/60 threshold has been met, the law continues to be breached. For example, Malawi Accountants Board and the Roads Fund Administration have zero women representation.

“HRDC is also concerned that the chairmanship of boards of Egenco and Power Marketing Company is in the hands of the Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet (SPC),” Trapence said.

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“The SPC is also Power Market Limited (PML) chairman which is worse for Escom as he is also conflicted since PML handles issues between off-taker (Escom) and (Egenco), so how can he preside over issues that he has interest in?” he added.

Gender Activist Emma Kaliya said it is very sad that gender representation continues to retrogress in boards.

Kaliya said with the change of administration, the expectation was that there will be a change in how things are done.

“This is one area as a country we are failing to improve. The country has a lot of skilled and qualified women that can perform, given an opportunity. We just hope the government will revisit the boards soon,” Kaliya said.

NGO Gender Coordination Network, in their gendered analysis compliance to the gender equality act, observed that of the 54 parastatals analysed appointments, 11—about 20.37 percent— are compliant with section 11 of the Gender Equality Act.

“That means appointments into 43 state owned enterprises, representing 79.63 percent fall completely short of complying with GEA. Of particular worry is zero representation of women in a good 11 parastatals.

The statement observed that of peculiar note are appointments into Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi (NMCM) and Malawi Institute of Education (MIE) where female member’s representation constitutes over 60 percent.

“While this may seem laudable, it runs afoul of GEA on either gender quota thresholds of 40:60. In addition, a paltry seven of parastatal board of directors are led by female chairpersons.

“While we appreciate the diverse backgrounds from which appointees have been picked, we would like to register our concern with the failure to comply with the legal framework,” reads the statement.

It also observed that the concerns were raised on the appointments of women into the Cabinet, at 38 percent female representation, and as Presidential Advisors one out of nine, representing 11 percent.

“Therefore, we reiterate our appeal to the appointing authority to fully comply with the legal framework in the appointments and recruitments into the public sector,” reads the statement.

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