As the year draws to a close and the end of the #16DaysofActivism approaches, I thought it would be pertinent to look back at 2014 and take note of some #GenderJustice moments of 2014. We often hear about the achievements and awards from women around the world, but our Malawian herstories are often untold and unsung. This list is not comprehensive in any way, nor does it attempt to be. Rather it is a snapshot of the everyday activism and heroism that occurs within our ranks. Doing the research for this post was as inspirational for me as I hope the post will be for you. It is my plan to make this a yearly post, perhaps I shall make that my Resolution for 2015! I would love for this to be an ongoing conversation, with YOU the reader contributing the truly unsung herstories, the ones that didn’t make the news but changed lives.
In no particular order, here goes…
The Malawi Queens! The Queens shone brightly and made the nation proud when they competed in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on July 24, 2014 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. These fine women took social media by storm with their athleticism and professionalism – all Malawians (male and female) were proud to call them our own. The Queens are internationally ranked fifth by the International Netball Federation (INF) and even those who don’t necessarily follow the sport sat up and took notice as The Queens blazed their trail across the UK, now we all want to play #LikeAGirl!
The First Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly is a woman! Hon. Esther Mcheka Chilenje-Nkhoma MP for the Nsanje North is one of the few women parliamentarians sitting in the National Assembly (women hold only 16% of the seats), a career politician who has served Malawi at the United Nations and previously served as a Member of Parliament. Her website lists her visions for Nsanje North, these include: Improving the road network (tarring the roads); Building and improving several schools; Providing Computers to schools; Building of dikes to stop floods (many people and their possessions are devastated by these); Constructing irrigation to improve food security and economy in the constituency; Constructing hospitals for proper health care services; a Cancer hospital; Orphanages; Safe water and building a technical college… Brava!
2014 – the year that Mrs Mary Kachale was appointed the Director of Public Prosecutions. As the top prosecutor in Malawi her office is responsible for all public prosecutions in the country.
The Parliamentary Women’s Caucus are advocating for the reform of abortion laws in Malawi. The Caucus is chaired by Hon. Jessie Kabwila a lecturer and human rights activist. Currently legal abortion is restricted to saving a pregnant woman’s life, and the law is narrowly interpreted. Malawi has a high incidence of unsafe abortions (accounting for about 17% of the maternal deaths in 2009) annually an estimated 30,000 women are treated for complications from unsafe abortions.
Malawi’s FIFA ranked assistant referee Bernadettar Kwimbira Mzika has proved that she is one of the best in Africa. She was chosen to officiate at the African Women’s championships held in Namibia from October 11 to 25. Bernadettar started football officiation in 2001 at the age of 19 and became an international referee in 2005. She has officiated more than 20 games internationally was appointed by FIFA as one of the 6 match officials from Africa to officiate at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nainjing, China. Again, making us proud to do it #LikeAGirl!
Forbes named Former President Dr Joyce Banda as the 40th most powerful woman in the world and one of the most powerful woman in Africa. Her time in office was marred by the scandals of Cashgate and so on. But for a moment let’s forget all that and recognise this: she is up there with Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Angela Merkel, Melinda Gates, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Oprah and the queen Bey….
Malawian fashion designer Lilly Alfonso was nominated for an international award. You can watch her inspiring story On CNN African Voices. Lilly says her work is a recreation of her feelings. She speaks to CNN about her entry into the fashion industry and how she feels about her work inspiring young people. Her designs have appeared on the runway in London and she participated in African Fashion Week London!
Lawyer and baker Sungeni Mtalimanja was featured on CNN’s African Start Up for her business, Sweet Temptations #Inspirational. In her interview with the Nation she cited the constant power outages as one of the hardest challenges she faces in her business. Malawians continue to experience frequent power and water shortages nationwide, this is a huge gender justice issue.
Tiwonge Chimbalanga (best known as Aunt Tiwo) a transgender Malawian woman was recently interviewed by Mark Gevisser for The Guardian. Her story reminds us that there is a long way to go before to achieve gender justice – and not just in Malawi. This year at least 226 trans persons lost their lives as a result of hate crimes against trans people. Gender is a construct, Tiwo is a real person and #HerLifeMatters. As do the lives of all trans people.
We don’t need to look beyond our borders for heroism, we are our own heroes.