President Lazarus Chakwera has defended the absence of a Ministry of Gender and Women, saying he has named more women in Cabinet than any president in the history of Malawi.
Gender activist Emma Kaliya had criticized President Chakwera for not living up to the promise of 40 percent female representation.
Kaliya also pointed out that most women are deputy ministers and described the cabinet as a raw deal.
In his 31-member Cabinet, President Chakwera just narrowly missed his target having appointed 12 female ministers, 38.7% of the Cabinet.
Speaking when the presided over the swearing in of his Cabinet, President Chakwera ministry of community services which omitted Gender and Women held by UTM secretary general Patricia Kaliati will be renamed.
“However, these are only absent in name, not in fact. While it may have been the practice of the previous administration [Democratic Progressive Party -DPP] to neglect any areas not appearing on the cabinet list by name, that kind of tokenism is not part of the Tonse Philosophy. As a case in point, the [DPP] indeed had a Ministry of Gender, but among its many failures was the failure to condemn and investigate the rape of women in a
village outside the capital despite having a cabinet portfolio,” said Chakwera.
“Our approach is to place issues of gender and disability within the Ministry of Community
Development and Social Welfare with a fully empowered and resourced Principal Secretary solely dedicated to address them with a view to reaching specific measurable benchmarks.
“This is because our Tonse Philosophy compels us to move away from paying lip service to the plight of women, children, and persons with disability as a publicity stunt, and to
instead focus on alleviating that plight. Our commitment is to tackle these issues as a collective responsibility, not the responsibility of a single ministry,” said Chakwera.
The Malawi leader said he wanted to lead by example by having a greater percentage of women in his Cabinet than any President in recent memory.
“Notwithstanding, for avoidance of any doubt about my commitment, I have directed the Chief Secretary to rename the Ministry accordingly in response to an appeal from stakeholders,” he said.
Chakwera said more women will be promoted to full ministers at the end of a five-month transition.
“Additionally, I have taken note of the observation that the women who are on my
Cabinet are mostly there as deputies and will increase the number of women who are full Ministers when I restructure my administration at the end of the five- month transition as I planned,” he said.
The Cabinet composition shows that Chakwera’s Malawi Congress Party (MCP) dominates with 16 party members — 12 full ministers and four deputies — representing 51.6%, while Vice President Saulos Chilima’s UTM Party has six members: four ministers and two deputies, representing 19.4%.
There are also two independent legislators in the new government.