#BlackHistoryMonth Joyce Banda – Malawi’s First Female President

Joyce Banda: Malawi's first female President

“it is only when a women is economically empowered that she can negotiate at household level with her husband about the number of children that body of hers can have.” – Joyce Hilda Banda.

The participation of Malawian women in state politics has been fraught with low representation. Although the past decades have seen notable efforts towards boosting female participation in parliament, most notably the Gender Equality Act (2012), constraints such as low income, education, gender stereotypes, and therefore lack of public support for women in leadership has been a major dampener in efforts towards equality.

In recognition of a pacesetter an inspiring figure in the Southern African country, one of Africa’s most powerful women by Forbes magazine paving way for an empowered generation of women mounting leadership positions and transforming their world, we salute Joyce Banda.

The trailblazing politician was elected Malawi’s first female president and Africa’s second. Her tenure duration lasted between 2012 – 2014. Banda’s assumption to the presidency was following the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

One of her call to actions upon taking office was donating 30% of her salary to Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA), an organization serving individuals with disabilities. She was also applauded for having used her 1997 prize money ($50,000) for the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger that she shared with President Chissanu of Mozambique,  to establish the Joyce Banda Foundation. She lives her greatest legacies in the areas of maternal and child health.

Born in 1950 in Malawi, she obtained a bachelor’s degree from Atlantic International University,  United States. Before her delve into the political arena, Banda encountered an abusive marriage with Roy Kachale while in Nairobi, where she kicked off her women’s movement, this personal experience served as a booster to her active grassroots activism and politics. Joyce Banda with aim of empowering women and bettering lives is noted for having founded organizations, including the National Association of Business Women of Malawi, and the Joyce Banda Foundation.

Before taking on the role of the presidency, Joyce Banda served as Minister of Gender, Child Welfare, and community services (2004-2006) and Foreign Minister (2006-2009). During her time as
Minister of Gender and Child Welfare, she was instrumental in the enactment of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill. She also served as the Vice-President of Malawi from May 2009 to April 2012 – making history with the position. Dr. Banda also played a major role in the formation of the African Federation of Women Entrepreneurs (AFWE), the Council for the Economic Empowerment of Women in Africa (CEEWA); and the American & African Business Women’s Alliance (AABWA), where she also served as First President. She is the founder and leader of the People’s Party, created in 2011.

The politician, known for her contribution towards driving the sinking economy of Malawi into good grounds also earned repute for her tough stance against corruption, being a power player in grassroots activism and gender parity. The top politician in efforts towards powering safe motherhood in Malawi established the Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood. She also founded Joyce Banda Foundation for Better Education, the Young Women Leaders Network, the National Association of Business Women, and The Hunger Project in Malawi.

The former president was a visiting Fellow at the Wilson Center and a board member of several development organizations, including the Executive Advisory Committee of UNIFEM, the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, and the Scientific Advisory Board for the program in Global Health and Social Change at Harvard Medical School. She is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Throughout her political career, Banda received awards and accolades for her significant contributions, including the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger in 1997 (shared with Mozambican Pres. Joaquim Chissano), named Africa’s third most powerful woman by Forbes magazine in 2011, voted CNN’s Leading Woman of the Year in Politics (2014), same year recognized as the 40th most powerful woman in the world, and the most powerful woman in Africa by Forbes. She is also a proud recipient of the Martin Luther King Drum Major Award, 2012, Washington DC,
Legends Award for Leadership, 2012, Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, 1997, Africa Federation of Woman Entrepreneurs and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) award amongst others.

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