By Duncan Mlanjira
Seasoned human rights activist, Emma Kaliya has congratulated President Lazarus Chakwera and all who took part in the appointment process of judges for implementing equal gender representation to serve in the High Court of Malawi.
Out of the 12 judicial personnel that have been appointed as High Court judges, six are women — Her Honour Agnes Thokozani Patemba; Her Honour Anneline Kanthambi, Her Honour Vikochi J.N. Chima; Her Worship Violet Chipao; Mrs Maureen Kondowe and Mrs Charlotte Wezi Malonda.
While Lady Justice Ivy Kamanga was elevated to serve as judge for the Supreme Court of Appeal together with Justices Healy Potani, John Katsala and Charles Mkandawire.
Justices Kamanga and Potani were involved in the February 2020 landmark Constitutional Court ruling of the disputed 2019 presidential election case together with Justices Redson Kapindu, Dingiswayo Madise and Michael Tembo — who have since been voted as the winner of the 2020 Chatham House Prize as recognition of their role in upholding the independence of the judiciary in the historic ruling.
Kaliya said this is the way forward that women should be recognised in positions of influence if they deserve the honour, saying all the lady judges that have been appointed are equal to the task given to them.
Kaliya made these remarks in her keynote address as well as her presentation of the consultative meeting of the local level Beijing+25 Platform for Action held at Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre on Monday.
The conference has been organised by several feminist rights CSOs, that include Kaliya’s Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC); Women Legal Resources Centre (WOLREC); NABW; ActionAid; Plan International with funding from Urgent Action Fund Africa.
Kaliya’s sentiments on the equal gender appointment of the judges received a huge round of applause from the participants from the health sector, magistrates, lawyers, police victim support unit (VSU) women officers, business women and women Councillors.
It also attracted women’s rights NGOs, senior female media practitioners, rural women, teachers/lecturers, the City Assembly official and young female students.
This comes hot on heels of recent condemnation from feminist activists as well as the general public over the under-representation of women in Chakwera appointments of boards of directors of parastatals.
Women’s Manifesto Movement — a consortium of gender equality organizations — went on to organise demostrations early this month in major cities across the country to show their discontent with the unequal representation.
Addressing the media after the demostrations, one of the organizers Maggie Kathewera Banda — Wolrec’s Executive Director — had observed that out of 67 parastatal boards appointments, 80% have less than 40% of women representatives.
She said up to 10 of the boards do not have any female at all and only 7 of the 67 boards have female chairpersons.
Kathewera Banda further called upon the Tonse government to respect the rule of law by ensuring that Gender Equality Act, section 11 in particular is being implemented and upheld.
Before the fresh presidential elections in June, Kathewere Banda had demanded that the next Head of State that would be voted in should implement to the book that there is equal representation of women in the cabinet as well as other national positions of influence.
Kathewera Banda had stressed that this was not a request but a demand as this is contained in the Gender Equality Act.
The Gender Equality Act says that in appointing all positions of influence, there must be not less than 40 percent and not more that 60 percent of either sex.
The equal representation of women and men in positions of influence is one of the agendas that the global women’s conference held in Beijing 25 years ago discussed for member countries to address.
Monday’s Beijing+25 Platform for Action conference was to address if any achievements have been made 25 years down the line.
Kaliya told the enthusiastic delegates that the Beijing conference, that drew over 40,000 and had former President Joyce Banda as part of the Malawi delegation then, formulated most effective and comprehensive global policy framework and a roadmap for achieving gender equality and women’s rights.
She observed that there had been gradual progress toward gender equality and women’s empowerment across the world in which most members translated the commitments made into concrete strategies.
“However, structural inequalities still persist in many countries, preventing the full achievement of women rights and gender equality,” she said.
“It’s time now that we demanded the space that we want and nobody else can do it for us but ourselves,” said the seasoned activist, who is the executive director of MHRRC, chairperson of SADC gender alliance, UN Champion of Equal Pain and is active in several other international human rights fora.
She said she was pleased that the country’s feminist CSO’s advocacy is working as evidenced by the President in making sure there in equal representation in the appointment of the judges.
“Get very angry if things are not going your way, don’t smile at mediocrity but ask what is rightfully yours,” she told the women delegates, attracting a huge round of applause.
The interactive conference, through group participation, consulted on the progress of the 12 themes that Malawi has been tasked to handle as formulated from the global Beijing conference held in 1995 in China.