Woman President Shows Malawi the Way


Malawi’s President Joyce Banda took office during a difficult time economically and politically, in addition to being first woman to be head of state in southern Africa. She is a true leader, for her country as well as for women: Banda has appointed women to key positions since taking power, and even before taking office she spearheaded efforts such as founding National Association for Business Women.

She sat down with IPS News to discuss the link between women's empowerment and sustainable development, health care and education for women and girls, upcoming legislation that will empower and protect women, and much more.

ipsnews.net - Malawi’s President Joyce Banda knows a thing or two about women’s empowerment. After all she is the first female southern African head of state.

But she has not had it easy. Banda had a tough job fixing a sputtering economy after taking over from her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika who died in office on April 5, 2012. In 2011 the country witnessed nationwide protests against Mutharika and the failing economy. The United Kingdom, Malawi’s largest donor, had suspended $550 million in aid after Mutharika expelled its ambassador for calling him an autocrat.

But she did succeed. Since taking office she has implemented of a number of austerity measures, which included selling the country’s presidential jet for $15 million and taking a 30 percent cut in her salary. She also embarked on a range of reforms that not everyone has agreed with. The most controversial has been cultivating closer ties with international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, which is known for its heavy-handed austerity plans.

But in June, the World Bank said the country’s economy was recovering, with manufacturing expected to grow 6 percent and agriculture 5.7 percent.

In September 2012, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute reported that since Mutharika’s increasingly autocratic rule ended, respect for democracy and human rights has returned to the country under Banda’s presidency.

Read more, including excerpts from the interview, here.