Stakeholders strategise on women’s participation in polls


Activists have agreed to set up a special committee to identify challenges that could affect the participation of women in the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The committee has members from Pan-African Civic Educators Network (Pacenet), UN Women, Oxfam Malawi, Action Aid Malawi, MHRRC, Non-Governmental Organisation Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN), Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMC) and Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn)
The development comes after a recent survey by NGO-GCN and the Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC) has revealed that political parties use national security agencies to perpetuate gender-based violence.
The abridged findings of the survey say the parties are using agencies such as the police and the military to enforce a political order that aims to deny women a space in politics.
“Political violence against women—or gendered repression—is a denial of specific forms of security for women within unstable settings, and it remains poorly documented. It is a practice wherein women are targeted by political agents (e.g. police, military, militias, local authorities, customary authorities) in an effort to enforce a political order,” the findings read in part.
The NGO-GCN Chairperson and MHRRC Executive Director, Emma Kaliya, first presented the findings at the women’s rights activists’ workshop in Mulanje District last week.
Pacenet organised the workshop with funding from United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to brainstorm on successes, challenges and opportunities on women participation in politics.
Kaliya said in an interview that the motives for the gender-based violence are to create a high-risk political space to humiliate and oppress women.
“The other motives are to prevent the effective participation of women within the political scene, especially in efforts to sustain women’s rights and empowerment; and to generally perpetuate an environment of high instability with violent consequences,” she said.
And speaking at the planning meeting on setting up Election Situation Room (ESR) in Zomba, a lecturer at the University of Malawi’s The Polytechnic, Abel Mwanyungwe, said while sexual violence strategies can be used as a terror tactic to cultivate an environment of fear, gendered repression is more systematic and widespread across the society.
Mwanyungwe observed that any act of gender-based violence is directed primarily at women.
“Gender-based electoral violence includes other targeting tactics to carry out political violence against women as well, in addition to sexual violence strategies,” he said.

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