The fact that 51 percent of the total population of Malawi is made up of females simply tells us that there are more males than females. However, I doubt if this fact manifests itself in our everyday endeavors.
There are so many instances that suggest that women are disregarded by our society’s norms and customs. This is an outright shame to Malawi as a nation that is governed by democratic principles and adheres to the profound human rights of all. If we are really serious about developing this nation, then why do we seem to be clinging to our old patriarchal ways? No one has ever justified the reason why we leave out a larger percentage of our population in many of our development efforts.
School enrollment rate and annual school dropout rates of boys and girls, you will notice that more girls drop out of school than boys and enrollment numbers are quiet high on the column of boys than that of girls. The pass rate of boys and girls in national examinations are enough to put one into a military posture of attention. It appears as if the boys had an easy syllabus when well leaned teachers than their female counterparts.
The reasons for such heartrending scenarios are simple, there are only a few who really want to see girls excelling in the society. Not many people are willing to engage themselves in the noble cause of fighting against the evils that prevent women and girls from excelling.
People call all sorts of derogatory names to sex workers and shout sarcastic remarks as if dehumanizing them is a cure for all their problems. Nobody says hang on! Who do such women sleep around with? Every community knows who the men are but they take it as a normal thing- 'males vanquishing the females by virtue of their being males'. However, just because the partners are females, the society becomes judgmental and condemnatory.
Earnestly, gender equality is one major indicator of modernity. A civilized society is one that respects and grants equal freedoms and opportunities to all people regardless of age, skin colour, gender and what have you.
The recent tripartite elections that were held on the 20th of May this year have also shown how far we might be away from civilization. Out of the total 193 parliamentary seats only 32 aspiring females emerged as victors while the other positions were scooped by men. The Local Elections results were also the same as only 56 female candidates won as Ward Councillors while men got the lion’s share.
A lot of sarcastic remarks were made and some reached the point of saying women should not vie for positions because their rightful place is in the kitchen. If it were really so, why do women crowd under five clinics with their infants (some who will grow up and have the audacity of saying ‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen’) on their backs? If it were true that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, we could have been seeing men and their toddlers crowding under five clinics and women cooking in the comfort of their kitchens.
Furthermore, people should avoid generalisations, they are illogical. If a constituency or ward had a female leader who did not perform during her reign in power, does it mean all women cannot manage the mantles?
However, all is not lost because those who have won positions know how best to address the challenges which women and girls are facing. The country is expecting a lot from them; the youth, women and children have long outstanding issues that really need to be addressed and who knows better than their elected representatives?
It is high time Malawians respected the rights of women as well as girls. There is need to incorporate women and girls in all our national agendas. They too have their desires as well as aspirations and their capacity to develop this country should not be underestimated. Male chauvinism has no place in the democratic and 50 -year old independent Malawi.