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Peter Mutharika hits at critics

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By Audrey Kapalamula:

President Peter Mutharika Wednesday, in what seemed an indirect response to critics, backed his appointment of women to decision-making positions.

Mutharika came under fire from some civil society organisations (CSOs) and Women Lawyers Association of Malawi for appointing few women—Jean Kalilani [Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development], Grace Chiumia [Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development] and Cecilia Chazama [Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare]—to his recent 20-member Cabinet, following a reshuffle.

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But Mutharika, speaking when he presided over a University of Malawi graduation ceremony at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe, said he would con t inue appointing women on merit to top positions as one way of building an inclusive society that empowers the youth and women.

“I have appointed many women into various positions because I believe in empowering women. Of four [High Court] judges that I appointed, two are women. I have appointed women ambassadors, women chief executive officers in parastatals, women principal secretaries and a woman Solicitor General. But the responsibility of promoting women is not for the government alone; how many women are CEOs [chief executive officers] in the private sectors?” He said.

Mutharika added: “In all these organisations there are only few women in decision-making positions. Even some of those who are attacking [the] government do not have women in their leadership levels.”

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The 15 percent women representation in the Cabinet recently attracted criticism from the CSOs that advocate women empowerment, including the 50-50 campaign, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and women lawyers’ body.

The stakeholders wrote the United Nations on the matter while others petitioned Mutharika, pressing him to include more women in the Cabinet.

HRDC National Cordinator, Timothy Mtambo, Wednesday said Mutharika’s reaction to the CSOs’ demand was proof that his government is always on the defensive and never admits when it has erred even when facts are obvious.

“Yes, it is the responsibility of everyone to do that [appoint women to leadership positions]. That is true. It is all our responsibility to work towards gender equality, but the government should provide leadership in terms of implementation of laws, so he [Mutharika] should not have an excuse that most heads in the private sector are male.

“He [Mutharika] just have to accept that there is something wrong and review the appointments [so as] to ensure that women are properly represented,” Mtambo said.

Women lawyers’ body had not responded as we went to press.

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