Gender inequalities are still pervasive in Malawi and women continue to be marginalized from constructively participating in the governance of their country. This is despite Malawi’s ratification of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and other frameworks promoting gender equality. In the political arena, Malawi lags behind with low representation of women in leadership and decision-making positions. Social cultural norms influence leadership decisions. These norms are mainly exacerbated by patriarchy and cultural attitudes towards females. Malawi’s First-Past-The-Post election model also creates an uneven playing field for women candidates, as they have less access to political party support, the media and financing. In the 2014 elections only 32 women out of 192 representatives were elected into Parliament representing 16.6% while at the sub-national level where important decisions directly affecting the quality of life of citizens are made, women representatives elected was a dismal 11% of 400 plus seats.
The Malawian Government has acknowledged the significance of gender in national development and is dedicated to the goals of gender equality, equity and empowerment of women. It has also mainstreamed and prioritized gender mainstreaming interventions for socio-economic empowerment of women. However, despite its triad Constitutions since its independence in 1964, it was not until the mid-1990s that an explicit institutional framework was developed for recognizing inequalities between women and men in Malawi. In 2013, Malawi enacted the Gender Equality Act (GEA) 2013 as a tool for mainstreaming gender into the Malawian public sector. The GEA consists of a situation analysis, policy measures, institutional framework, implementation strategies, monitoring and evaluation and resource mobilization and implications. The GEA seeks to achieve full participation of both women and men in the development process at all levels in order to ensure sustainable development and attainment of equality and equity and further seeks to remove gender disparities that place a greater weight of poverty on women. Although several strides have been done towards increasing women’s participation in politics and public administration as part of the attainment of gender equality, more needs to be done. The implementation of GEA is therefore critical to the attainment of gender equality and women empowerment.
Currently, Malawi has a democratic elected government which came to power through the May 2014 tripartite elections. The women empowered for leadership programme, which speaks to the GEA, has sufficient time to strategically empower women to participate in public administration and in the next elections due in May 2019.