President Dr Joyce Banda on Thursday unveiled what she described as a multi-tiered grand strategy for promoting women potential in leadership positions.
The Malawi leader urged the enthusiastic delegates to the World Economic Forum for Africa to adopt a three-tiered strategy comprising:
· increasing the number of female graduates in relevant profession;
· getting results in agriculture and various other fields essential for economic growth and finally;
· integrating women in decision-making and leadership positions.
“All these issues considered together will form the basis of Africa’s grand strategy towards the promotion of women’s potential in leadership positions,” she told the delegates in her keynote address during a session on Working Women: ‘From Talent to Leadership in Cape Town’.
“Tier one is where mentorship is most critical and this is to do with our ability to support young women to develop the necessary skills, and embrace their talents in their preparation as emerging leaders,” she informed.
She said the second tier is for creation of support mechanisms for women to actually enter into the leadership spaces. This, she said, support can be in form of creation of women’s visibility, training, resources, linkages and affirmative action to promote women.
The President said the third tier is where women have entered the leadership spaces and they need to be supported to stay on in these spaces.
“This requires strategic support in order for us to deal with the structural barriers that subtly or explicitly want to disengage women from leadership spaces,” she explained.
Appreciating the efforts the continent has made in pushing for the entry of women in leadership positions, the Malawi President however said her reflections this far have taught her that it is not enough to advocate for women’s entry alone, as there is more to be done and help the women to stay in the leadership positions.
She said she is concerned about the constant pressure that women get to drop out of positions of power, a development that she said starts from young ages.
“Young girls are forced to drop out of childhood by taking on adult responsibilities, adolescent girls are forced out of school to get married, women parliamentarians are forced out of their seats, and it’s shocking that these pressures are even subjected at women in my position.
“So the question I want to pose to all of you gathered here, is what can we do to support women’s entry into leadership positions, and what can we do to help women at all these tiers, and ultimately what should we do to secure women’s stay in these positions?”
She informed that there is need to strengthen women leaders’ ability to keep together in their countries and across the continent and create the permanency of women in leadership positions at all the levels.
The President said she strongly believes that the rise of African women in leadership can only be sustained by greater involvement of capable women.
Africa, she said, needs women in all sectors, social, business and political sectors. “We need to multiply and amplify the women’s voices. We must ensure that Ellen Sirleaf Johnson [Liberian President] Joyce Banda and Nkosazana Zuma [African Union Commission Chairperson] are not the first and last women to occupy these spaces. Then we will be back to square one,” saying the rise to power of these leaders was far-fetched 18 years ago during the Beijing Summit, probably the first most remarkable global forum for women empowerment.
“But as women we are thrilled that our dream has become a reality. Therefore I want to pay tribute to the women and men that have demonstrated the political will, and the determination to support women’s entry into the utmost high offices.”
She said to match her words with action, she has appointed women into high positions of Cabinet Ministers for key sectors, Acting Chief Justice, Chief Secretary to Government, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Heads of Diplomatic Missions, Solicitor General, two Deputy Reserve Bank Governors, Justices of the High Court, Principal Secretaries for key ministries, Chairpersons and CEOs of strategic statutory corporations.