Joyce Banda came to power as the first female president of Malawi and began a rigorous course to restore democracy to Malawi. She reversed many of the restrictive laws that Bingu wa Mutharika had began to implement in a short period of time.Although some argue that being a female president alone is not an achievement, in an era where gender equality has not been realized and women continue to struggle daily for labor, education and human rights, her ascension to leadership alone is an achievement.
She has struggled against systematic gender bias. On an individual level, she was ostracized from the cabinet for refusing to support a party that was trying to pass her over for a promotion in favor of the sitting President’s brother, but she stood her ground.
Others have argued that her presidency is not an achievement because she was not elected and doesn’t deserve the presidency. However, it is important to note that when people vote for the executive leadership in Malawi, they are voting for a ticket consisting of a president and a vice-president.
It is the understanding that the vice-president should be willing and able to perform the duties of the president in his/her absence. There are many changes that Malawi saw immediately after Banda’s election: shorter fuel queues, freedom to gather, a free press, and renewed diplomatic ties which can’t be overlooked.
It was possible that during the three-day power vacuum caused by the ‘constitutional crisis’, the next leader could have taken Malawi towards a dictatorship – She could have done the same.
Although Banda may not be the type of leader that all of the country wants (she has been criticized for falling back to old style politics, bowing to the west, not having a clear vision, being indecisive, and having poor management skills – I think some of this criticism stems from typical gender-based stereotyping). She should be given her due credit for what she has done for the people that elected her into power.
Freedes, another contributor here agrees with Sitinga, saying:
I think it is well deserved. Unfortunately when women do rise to power, a lot of critics put them down by looking for reasons of how or why it is even possible, then put it down to circumstantial. Banda has worked hard to get to where she is and no doubt working hard to justify why she is there, facing insults from men and women. The entire world was amused when President Barack Obama was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize (for leadership?), presumably for being America’s first black president. If the prize is up for grabs, Joyce Banda would get my vote.
Do you agree, disagree? Let’s hear your thoughts.