Hearty congratulations pour in as Malawi’s Speaker is elected executive chairperson of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association-African Region

* News we love to hear. Very proud of you—gender activist Emma Kaliya

* First-ever female Speaker of the National Assembly since independence in 1964

By Duncan Mlanjira

News of the election of Malawi’s Speaker of Parliament, Catherine Gotani Hara as executive chairperson of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association-African Region, hearty congratulations poured in on social media — reveling at the achievement of the first-ever female Speaker of the National Assembly since independence in 1964.

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A statement from the Parliament press team says Gotani Hara was elected on Monday, June 6 during the Association’s 52nd Conference being held from June 3 to today, June 9 in Freetown — the capital city of Sierra Leone.

Gender activist Emma Kaliya joined the congratulation messages with a statement: “News we love to hear, congratulations Right Honourable Speaker. Very proud of you and God Bless you.”

The African Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association comprises of the 63 national and subnational legislatures — governed by a coordinating and executive committees made up of representatives from across the region.

There is also a regional representatives committee which reports to the executive.

The CPA’s Mission is to promote and protect the interests and perspectives of Africa Regional Parliaments and countries, into the Commonwealth and beyond, and to promote gender equality, emancipation of women, and respect for human rights, freedoms, democracy and good governance.

Gotani Hara, who has been the Speaker since June 2019, takes over from Justin B. Muturi, MP and Speaker of Kenya’s National Assembly.

She is an alumnus of Kamuzu Academy from where she went on to attain a Bachelor of Arts in political science at Chancellor College where she started her political career when ran the affairs of the University of Malawi’s wing of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

From 1998 to 2000, she completed professional postgraduate training in International Development and Project Planning and Management in Brighton, UK where she also worked as programme officer for the UK’s Department of International Development — the first Malawian to be recruited to that level in which she was responsible for the sustainable livelihood projects for both Malawi and Mozambique.

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She was then elected as MP for a Zimba North East in 2009 representing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) through which she was appointed Deputy Minister of Transport & Public Infrastructure; Deputy Minister for Gender and the Minister for Health in Joyce Banda administration.

She has represented Malawi’s Head of State at a number of international events, and was the chairperson of Malawi’s delegation to the Climate Change Summit in Brazil. She has also been a Board member of Northern Region Water Board.

After the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika in 2012, she publicly declared that it unconstitutional for members in the ruling politburo to take over the presidency.

She took a break from politics from 2014 to 2019, where she was re-elected on MCP ticket and when on to be elected Speaker with 97 votes to 93 over former deputy speaker Esther Mcheka Chilenje.

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