21 September 2018
Breaking News

Hope as shadow women councilors gear up for 2019

Written by  Hannifah Mtuwakale
Tovwirane Organisation officials pose with some aspirants Tovwirane Organisation officials pose with some aspirants


Nkhata Bay, February 22, 2018: In the run up to 2014 tripartite elections, it was even hard to convince her husband to accept that a woman can assume a political office and govern a community.
Her bid for the office of ward councilor met with stiff resistance from members of her own community.

“People of my community called me names for interacting with different men who were part of my campaign team.

“It was hard since I had to deal with stress and at the same time show the community that I am a strong woman,” explains Gertrude Kaunda of Peoples Party (PP) in Nkhata Bay District.

She says out of 12 wards in the district, only three women were elected as councilors.

“It was not easy for a female candidate to win the 2014 tripartite elections as the playing field was not leveled,” she says.

Kaunda adds that even fellow women played a role in suppressing aspiring female councilors.

“Due to the stiff resistance, some aspiring candidates developed low self-esteem and quit the race,” she says.

Kaunda further explains that lack of resources was another challenge women aspirants faced during the campaign period.

“Male aspirants had more campaign materials, including handouts, than their female counterparts and people voted for those who gave them handouts.

“I had nothing to give to the people; therefore, they stopped attending my meetings and went to candidates who had money, zitenje (wrappers), hats and all the resources,” she explains.

Kaunda, who lost her bid for Kalambwe Ward, adds that it was hard to travel long distances to campaign since “I didn’t even have a bicycle.”

Maria Chunga of United Democratic Front (UDF), who contested for Boma Ward, shares Kaunda’s sentiments and explains why societies should start electing women into political offices.

“Women understand the needs and challenges of a community better than men because it is women who stay longer at home than men who mostly spend time at work or pubs,” Chunga says.

“Women are faster in solving societal problems since they attach emotions to everything unlike men who are full of pride and greed,” she adds.

Chunga explains that, just as her own home, a woman would take care of a community in making sure that people do not suffer from hunger, inadequate water and poor road network.

“Just like my own home, I cannot allow my children to sleep on an empty stomach and would not be happy to see my child failing to go to school just because there is no bridge across a river. I’m a mother; I have empathy,” she says.

But as the next tripartite elections are fast approaching, are the women ready for a comeback?

Tovwirane Organisation, a non-governmental organisation, aimed at mobilizing and developing communities’ capacity for improved social and economic wellbeing is courting women never to give up.

The organisation’s monitoring and evaluation officer Eddah Mtika says Tovwirane is working with other non-governmental organizations to deal with problems that women candidates faced in 2014 to avoid a repeat in next year’s elections.

“We are still looking for capable women willing to contest as councilors in 2019 to train them on how they can do public speaking and their campaigns through our Women Empowered for Leadership Project,” Mtika says.

She says apart from the trainings, Tovwirane will also embark on public awareness campaigns on empowerment targeting people who still hold the view against women holding political leadership positions.

“As, Tovwirane, we are working with other non-governmental organizations to help protect women’s rights as many rights are violated during this period.

“We want to make sure that women’s right of participation is being observed in this country as many complain of sexually harassment. High ranking men ask for sexual favors in exchange for campaign resources; we are working hard so that this does not happen again,” she says.

The project started in December, 2016 with funding from Hivos International and currently is operating in three districts, namely, Mzimba, Rumphi and Nkhata Bay.

With the backing of Towvirane, Kaunda is confident for a comeback in 2019.

“I will be back in 2019 though we went through a lot in the 2014 tripartite elections. We now have a helper in Tovwirane,” Kaunda says.
One of the three Nkhata Bay’s successful women councilors, Esnart Nyambalo, advises fellow aspirants in 2019 to be strong.

“It was not easy to win the elections over men as they are still regarded as superior to us in society. Prepare well and be strong to overcome any challenges you will encounter,” says Nyambalo who won the Chintheche Ward seat in 2014.


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