Source: Daily Observer
Malawian President Joyce Banda has challenged African women to support female leadership in Africa in order to change the widely held perception that women are incapable of leading a country. 

“This time is ours, and we should do all we can to convince our male counterparts that we are equally competent and qualified to be in leadership,” Banda said upon her first visit to Liberia over the weekend.

President Banda is Africa’s third female President, following Ruth Perry and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, both of Liberia.

Banda ascended to the presidency following the death of Malawi’s constitutionally elected president, Bingo wa Mutharika. As Vice President of that southern African country at the time, Banda took over the presidency in line with the Malawian constitution.

Liberia, home of Africa’s only elected female president to date, is Banda’s first foreign travel destination.

Making the call on Liberian women during her two-day visit to Liberia, President Banda indicated, “I should have visited neighboring countries as some suggested to me, but I decided to visit Liberia first in my tour.  I thought of President Sirleaf, who is my role model, to sit and chat with her on how we can contribute to the development of Africa along with our male counterparts.  I will need your support in this endeavor to make a mark that will reflect African women’s image on the continent, and if I succeed, it is your success, and [my] failure your failure.

“Although it is my first time visiting Liberia, I can see that more progress has been made under the administration of President Sirleaf who took over this country following years of war, and I believe more can be done to make great changes in Liberia,” she added.

Reflecting on her political struggle, President Banda said, “During my tough days in pursuing the vice presidency position in Malawi, I was expelled from my party because of my political belief about the welfare of women, and it is President Sirleaf who encouraged me throughout to persist; and now I am President.”

She said the presence of two women among Africa’s predominantly male presidents was a source of pride for African women. She then pledged that she and President Sirleaf would do their utmost to “totally break the glass ceiling that has prevented women from actively participating in leadership on the continent.”

In pursuance of this ambition to promote women’s participation in leadership, President Banda indicated that she has given several key positions in government to women, including the position of the deputy police chief.

She encouraged the women in Liberia to be courageous and confident in their efforts to pursue leadership, referring to Biblical examples of how God encouraged some actors to move forward with responsibilities they had.

“Let me make a brief reference to the Bible about two characters as I conclude.  Joshua became discouraged when he was clothed with the responsibility to lead the children of Israel to the promise land.  God told him to be courageous and not dismayed, but to trust Him and move forward.  In addition, when Mary went to the grave of Jesus and realized that Jesus was no longer there, she persisted and stayed until she met Jesus after his resurrection”.

She then called on President Sirleaf and all Liberian women to take courage and make their mark in leadership. She also gave the assurance that besides the female leadership connection between her and President Sirleaf, her government was desirous of establishing strong bilateral ties with Liberia and would be working in the direction of food security in both countries.

As part of her plan to promote women and youth in Malawi, President Banda said her government was determined to empower women and youth, especially in the agriculture sector.  She said this would enhance food security and cash income for Malawians.

According to her, men have enjoyed the economic benefits of the home, in terms of receiving the best baths and being first to eat before women. This time around, she said the men should reciprocate the efforts of women by joining them to promote their leadership on the continent toward its success.

President Sirleaf, in remarks, said, “I’m glad that you have joined me among African male presidents to discuss African economic and political developments, and it is my pleasure to warmly welcome you to Liberia.”

Madam Sirleaf said although she has on her agenda the promotion of women’s rights, leadership impacts everyone, and leaders are under obligation to exhibit leadership that would benefit everyone.

Besides closed-door discussions held with President Sirleaf, the Malawian President received gifts and a warm welcome from Liberian women at the Ministry of Gender and Development.

She was visibly amused by the women who chanted, “Women no longer sit at the back! Together we shall walk side by side!”

Speaking on behalf of rural women at the occasion, the head of the National Women’s Structure of Liberia, Kebbeh Monger, praised President Sirleaf for her role in breaking the “glass ceiling” that claimed women were incompetent for leadership.

“The leadership of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has brought women to the public scene; and today, we who could not attend such an important national occasion can attend and even make remarks.

“Now we have gotten another one to add to President Sirleaf.  As you go to your country of origin, Madam President, do not forget the rural women of Malawi.  Make them to be like us as President Sirleaf has done,” Madam Monger challenged the Malawian leader.


President Banda after briefing journalists and between President Sirleaf and Gender & Development Minister Julia Duncan Cassell after gowning (right).
President Banda after briefing journalists and between President Sirleaf and Gender & Development Minister Julia Duncan Cassell after gowning (right).

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