Written by KWACHA J.D. MWANZA
Her Excellency President Joyce Banda first sent shock waves and cracks into the glass ceiling of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State (HOS) when she was sworn in as Malawi's and the SADC first female president on 7 April, 2012, two days after the sudden death of Pres Bingu wa Mutharika. Those cracks in the regional leadership architecture were finally shattered when the SADC HOS elected her as the organization's Vice Chairperson for the term 2012-2013. As Deputy Chair, Pres Banda will automatically assume the Chair of the grouping of 15 southern African countries, for the 2013-2014 term.
The SADC HOS ceiling is broken. Congratulations Madame Pres Joyce Banda!
When a throng of women, dancing along the aisles of the Big Yellow Tent at the Mount Soche Hotel garden, (singing "Sainani, Sainani bambo! Oh saina!" - sign, sign, presidents please sign!) Joyce Banda was among the singing and dancing women. They were giving a little Malawi-style incentive to a group of male only leaders of the Souther African Development Community (SADC). This was in Blantyre, and the document was the Declaration on Gender. The date 8 September, 1997. Banda was at the helm of a network of business women she’d created, the National Association of Business Women (NABW).
The Declaration set out a concise statement on steps the regional group was to make for the advancement and promotion of gender equality. It was among others to reaffirm our commitment to the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies; the Africa Platform of Action and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
It was also to endorse the decision of Council on the establishment of a policy framework for mainstreaming gender in all SADC activities and putting into place an institutional framework for advancing gender equality consistent with that established for other areas of cooperation, but which ensures that gender is routinely taken into account in all sectors and the establishment of a Standing Committee of Ministers responsible for Gender Affairs in the region.
The gentlemen being encouraged to sign, did sign the Declaration. Since that historic signing of the 3 page SADC Declaration on Gender, the regional group has adopted a more elaborate and binding legal instrument known as the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, a 27 page document that takes from the best of international gender instruments and fill in gaps where any existed in the Declaration as well as international instruments. And from pushing to get 30 percent of women in decision making position, the protocol calls for 50 percent representations and adds numerous sections not dealt with in the Declaration.
At the adoption of the Protocol on 17 August 2008, Joyce Banda was Foreign Affairs Minister in the Mutharika Administration. It had been a long road to the signing of the Protocol; it was twice thrown back to the drafters, made up mostly of members of various non-governmental organizations from the region. But eleven years after the signing of the Blantyre Declaration on Gender, the podium still looked as it did in 1997—male-dominated yet making vital decisions on men, women, boys and girls in every aspect of their lives.
On 17th August, 2012, Pres Banda made history at the 32nd Ordinary Session of SADC summit. It was the first time that a woman literary sat shoulder to shoulder with members of this ultra exclusive club of the most powerful men in southern Africa - the SADC Heads of State Summit (HOS). For the first time, the SADC podium had color and a woman gracing the 15 seat high table.
History was made again by the Malawi leader, who has been dubbed "the mandasi seller" (literary cookie seller, a reference to types of businesses she undertook to survive), the SADC HOS elected her to the position of Deputy Chairperson of the organization. And as per the practice of the 15-member grouping, Pres Banda will ascend to the prestigious seat of Chairperson of the organization at a HOS Summit that will be hosted by Malawi in August, 2013.
These are grand achievements. There aren’t enough superlatives that exist in the English language to describe these and the many other things Pres Joyce Hilda Banda has accomplished since ascending to the post of Malawi President. Achievements made all in the span of under one year, six months even!
But the road to the Presidential Palace and the SADC high table hasn’t has been full of the proverbial thorns and shrub bushes and booby traps.
For example, when former president Bakili Muluzi in 1994 named he chairperson of the Malawi Housing Corporation, (the first woman to chair a parastatal organization in Malawi), there were miles and miles of analysts and opinion pieces in the local media on why she didn’t qualify for the position. Interestingly, male chairpersons appointed by Muluzi weren’t doubted.
But Banda in fact made a good chairperson with little and no scandal as has been rampant with other chairs of the corporation and other parastatals in Malawi
The second opposition Banda has confronted, or questions about her skills, came on the eve of her assuming the role of Malawi's Head of State. The comments bordered on the bizarre because they came from a panel where fellow women appeared to lead the diatribe dialogue.
Banda has come a long way and has proved herself time and again. How is it that Joyce Banda has smashed the glass ceiling of leadership in the SADC corridors?
The answer is in her biography, achieving things one day at a time. It’s been a life of looking at and listening to people's problems and "adopting" them as her own. And then not just sitting there but providing solutions.
Joyce Hilda Mtila was born on 12 April 1950 in Zomba, Malawi. The first born of a family of five, her father was an accomplished and popular police brass band musician. She began her career as a secretary and later ventured into business and soon established herself as a well-known figure through her networking activities in the business sector.
Wikipedia lists her education qualifications as a BA in Early Childhood Education from Columbus University, a BA in Social Studies in Gender Studies from the Atlantic International University, USA and a Diploma in Management of NGOs from the International Labour Organization (ILO) Centre in Italy. Currently, she's reading for an MA in Leadership at Royal Roads University in Canada.
Pres Banda is married to Richard Banda, retired Chief Justice of the Republic of Malawi with whom she has two children. She has three children from a previous marriage. KWACHA J.D. MWANZA
Pres Banda is married to Richard Banda, retired Chief Justice of the Republic of Malawi with whom she has two children. She has three children from a previous marriage.
From her secretarial career, Banda managed and established various businesses and organizations between 1985 and 1997; these include Ndekani Garments, (1985), Akajuwe Enterprises (1992), and Kalingidza Bakery. Her success moved her to help other women achieve financial independence and break the cycles of abuse and poverty by forming networks first in tailoring and then in business in general.
Banda entered politics in 1999 when she won a parliamentary seat in Malawi's second democratic election as a member of Pres Muluzi's party, United Democratic Front. Muluzi named her Minister for Gender and Community Services. As minister, she advocated to enact the Domestic Violence Bill, which had previously failed. She designed the National Platform for Action on Orphans and Vulnerable Children and the Zero Tolerance Campaign Against Child Abuse.
In 2004, she was reelected as a Member of Parliament along with Bingu wa Mutharika as president. Banda was Minister for Women and Children and later Mutharika appointed her as Foreign Minister in 2006. She led her country to cut ties with Taiwan and establish relations with Beijing, saying the switch would bring economic benefits to Malawi. In 2010, China finished the construction of a new parliament building for Malawi along with other construction and infrastructure works such as roads.
Events following Mutharika-Banda rift and new party
Banda ran as the vice-presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 2009 presidential election, running alongside Mutharika. She served as Malawi's first female vice-president, before becoming the country's first woman president upon Mutharika's death on 5 April, 2012. In December 2010, Joyce Banda and second vice president Khumbo Kachali were fired as the vice Presidents of the DPP for undefined 'anti-party' activities. In attempts to ostracize her, the president had continued to give roles that were previously held by her to his wife Callista Mutharika who was included in the cabinet in September 2011. The court had blocked attempts by Mutharika to fire her as Vice-President on constitutional grounds. This included attempts to seize her official government vehicle and to block her from registering her new party. On 8 September 2011, the role of Vice President was left out in a cabinet reshuffle. However, she was still the legal Vice-President of the country as mandated by the constitution. She was urged by DPP spokesman Hetherwick Ntaba to resign as Vice-President.
The relationship between Banda and her predecessor, Mutharika, had become increasingly tense because of Mutharika's attempts to position his own brother, Peter Mutharika as the next president of the country.
Although she was fired from the position as Vice President, she continued to serve as State Vice-President as stipulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi. KWACHA J.D. MWANZA
Although she was fired from the position as Vice President, she continued to serve as State Vice-President as stipulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi. This move led to mass resignations in the DPP and the formation of networks that supported her candidacy to become President of Malawi in the 2014 general election. The DPP denied that mass resignations had occurred and insisted that they were only a few.
Joyce Banda is the founder and leader of the People's Party, formed in 2011 after Banda was expelled from the ruling DPP when she refused to endorse President Mutharika's younger brother Peter Mutharika as the successor to the presidency for the 2014 general election.
2012 Power Transition
On April 5, Mutharika died but the government failed to notify the public in a timely manner about his death, causing fears of a constitutional crisis in Malawi.
Agence France-Presse reported Malawi’s ex-President Muluzi insisting on "constitutional order," saying the vice president must automatically take power under the constitution.
"I am calling for a constitutional order, for continued peace and order. The laws of Malawi are very clear that the vice president takes over" when the sitting president can no longer govern. We have to avoid a situation where there is disorder. Let us follow the constitution. We have no choice but follow the constitution. It's very important that there must be peace and calm."
Malawi's security forces also wanted the constitutional order to prevail. The Malawi Law Society confimed that under section 83(4) of the Malawi Constitution, Banda was the legitimate successor.
Banda was sworn in on Saturday, 7 April, as the Malawi president, the first woman to hold the office with Malawi Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo presiding.
"I want all of us to move into the future with hope and with the spirit of oneness and unity...I hope we shall stand united and I hope that as a God-fearing nation we allow God to come before us, because if we don't do that then we have failed," President Banda said during her inauguration.
Local and international media reported on the smooth inauguration, calling it a triumph for democracy. A Malawi Sunday Times editorial said that the new president’s inauguration had “helped to entrench and cement a democratic culture in the country”. On 26 April 2012, Banda chose her cabinet: 23 ministers and nine deputy ministers. She gave herself several key portfolios to advance and promote closely her stand on the sector. Significantly, Banda's cabinet contains the largest number of female cabinet holders and deputies. There're currently five women at ambassadorial level and several deputies in the foreign service.
Joyce Banda Foundation
Prior to becoming vice-president, Banda she was founder and CEO of the Joyce Banda Foundation for Better Education, a charitable foundation for Malawian children and orphans through education. It's a complex of primary and secondary schools. It includes an Orphan Care Center of six centres and 600 children. It also assists surrounding villages by providing micro-credit to 40 women and 10 youth groups. The Foundation provided seeds to over 10,000 farmers. The foundation has also constructed four clinics in four of the 200 villages it assists.
Banda founded the National Association of Business Women (NABW) in Malawi in 1990. It's a registered non-profit in Malawi. KWACHA J.D. MWANZA
Banda founded the National Association of Business Women (NABW) in Malawi in 1990. It's a registered non-profit in Malawi. NABW, a social network of 30,000 women, aims to lift women out of poverty by strengthening their capacity and empowering them economically. Its activities include business training, technical training, record keeping and management skills. They work towards creating dialogue with the policy makers to make policies favorable to women business owners. The foundation has partnered with the Netherlands based Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (Hivos) at The Hague since 2003.
Philanthropy and development initiatives
Banda's been involved with many grassroots projects with women since the age of 25. Her objective was to bring about policy change in education. She founded the Joyce Banda Foundation for Better Education. She also founded the Young Women Leaders Network, National Association of Business Women and the Hunger Project in Malawi.
She (jointly with Pres Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique) was awarded the 1997 Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger by the Hunger Project, a New York-based non-governmental organization. She used the prize money to fund the building of the Joyce Banda Foundation for Children. In 2006, she recevied the International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women for her dedication to the rights of the women of Malawi by the Americans for United Nations Population Fund.
She served as commissioner for "Bridging a World Divided" alongside personalities such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, and United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson. She was also a member of the Advisory Board for Education in Washington DC.
Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health
In 2010, she became a member of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, a group of 16 sitting and former heads of state, high-level policymakers and other leaders committed to advancing reproductive health for lasting development and prosperity. This is chaired by former President of Ireland Mary Robinson; these leaders seek to mobilize the political will and financial resources necessary to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015 – a key target of the UN Millennium Development Goals. And to this end President Banda seldom stands to address any audience without speaking about the appalling squalid conditions many mothers in Malawi deliver their babies. Lately, she has also began advocacy work around issues of fistula, affecting many women and girls in Malawi. This led to the Malawi government opening a Fistula Care Center within the Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe.
Woman of the Year, Malawi, 1997, 1998
Martin Luther King Drum Major Award, 2012, Washington DC
Legends Award for Leadership, 2012, Greater African Methodist Episcopal Church
Women of Substance Award, 2010, African Women Development Fund
Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, 1997, Hunger Project of NY
International award for entrepreneurship development, 1998, Africa Federation of Woman Entrepreneurs and Econ mic Commission for Africa (ECA)
The author also used Wikipedia as source for this article. ©2012 The Maravi Post.