Religious leaders and chiefs in Mangochi have pledged to support the 50:50 campaign ahead of May 2019 tripartite elections saying neither religious teachings nor cultural beliefs stop women from rising to high positions in politics.
The leaders made the commitment on Friday and Saturday during panel discussions organized by the 50:50 Campaign Management Agency to discuss whether religion or culture affect women participation in politics.
Chairperson for Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) for the district, Sheikh Fahd Kamsuli, said on Friday that people had generally misunderstood what Islamic faith taught about women’s role.
“Islam does not prohibit women from participating in politics or from taking leading roles in the society; what the faith does not allow women to do is to stand before men and lead in prayers,” explained Kansuli, adding, “However, in the absence of men, women can lead each other in prayers.”
He said the prohibition was only limited to the prayers and that women were free to participate in any activities in the society, including politics.
The MAM district chair condemned male competitors who discourage Muslim women from participating in politics saying their understanding of the Islamic teaching on the matter was limited.
He challenged Muslim women in the district and everywhere in the country to come out and claim their space in politics saying the religious leaders would give the women all the support they required.
On the other hand, one of influential traditional authorities in the district, Sultan Chowe, also refused to recognize culture as a barrier to women’s participation in active roles in the society.
Chowe said it was high time the society began to regard women as capable beings who could rise to any position and perform just like their male counterparts, or even better.
“We have a lot of examples of women who have proved to the world that they can lead,” said Chowe. “The most important thing we have to all concentrate on to achieve the goal of 50:50 campaign is to empower the girl child with education.
“My appeal to our women in Mangochi is that we should not allow our girls to rush into marriage at the expense of their education. Until our girls are educated enough to pluck the courage to compete with their male counterparts, this campaign will be a failure.”
Sultan said out of the 34 local government seats candidates will compete for in Mangochi he would be happy to see 20 seats going to women.
Meanwhile, there is only one female councilor out of 34 councilors that the district and town councils have.
The panel discussions on Friday and Saturday were aired live on the district’s three community radios, Umoyo, Lilanguka and Dzimwe.
Panelists included the civil society and political organization representatives.
Prior to the discussions, ten women aspiring candidates for Mangochi Central Wards from the DPP, UDF, MCP, and UTM were paraded across the constituency in a lorry where the aspirants took turns to sell themselves to voters.
The 50:50 campaign activities in Mangochi are being funded by the Icelandic Government through the Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) to the tune of K37 million.