A Quiet First- Malawi’s Female President
On April 7th, 2012, Malawi’s first female President, Joyce Banda, quietly took office. Vice-President Banda was sworn in following the unexpected death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. Banda has been a prominent advocate for women’s rights throughout her career, speaking out against the feminization of poverty and working to improve the economic outlook of rural women nationwide.
Banda’s transition to the Presidency took longer than expected. The government delayed announcing the President’s death in order to try to keep Banda from the Presidency and install Mutharika’s brother instead.
Banda had a tumultuous relationship with the ruling party and President Mutharika. She ran with Mutharika as his Vice-President in 2009 with the Democratic Progressive Party but was pushed out of the DPP the following year. Banda was ostracized for refusing to endorse President Mutharika’s brother as his successor for 2014. The DPP attempted to have her removed from office but could not find a legal way under the constitution. Banda did not back down and in response she created her own opposition party and spoke out against the President and his handling of Malawi’s economic situation.
Under President Mutharika, Malawi’s foreign aid dropped dramatically due to LGBT discrimination and lack of freedom of the press. Malawi is one of the poorest countries with 74% of the population living on less than 1.25 dollars a day. Because of her unique position as an outsider in government, Banda has a rare opportunity to repair Malawi’s foreign aid relations and change the direction of the country.
Image from Aljazeera.