History was made on June 19 when Malawi elected the first ever female Speaker of Parliament, a development gender and rights activists say is a victory for the country’s democracy and efforts for gender inclusion.
In the 55 years of independence Malawi has never had a female Speaker of Parliament.
Catherine Gotani Hara, opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) legislator beat ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Esther Mcheka Chilenje by 97 votes to 93.
A holder of a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Malawi and Postgraduate Degree International Development and Project Planning and Management, University of Brighton (UK), Hara has also served as a cabinet minister before. She served as Minster of Health, Minister of Environment, Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, and Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works.
She has legislative experience having served as member of Parliament from 2009 to 2014.
Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, gender analyst Ngeyi Kanyongolo, described Hara’s election as victory for democracy and growth of gender equality.
NGO-Gender Coordination Network chairperson Barbara Banda said the election of a female Speaker was a great moment for those fighting for women’s rights and equality.
“Political will has carried the day. We will continue to with such strategies to address existing gaps and leaving no one behind. Our lobbying has worked wonders,” Banda said.
The NGO Gender Network added that “this is a landmark step in the attainment of equality and non discrimination in Malawi as the ascendancy of the Honourable member to this highest office is a positive and transformative step in the creation of a society that promotes equality.”
Political analyst Dr Augustine Magolowondo described the election of Hara as a move in the right direction as the country implements programmes on gender inclusion.