Africa Leaders Magazine

Dr. JOYCE BANDA – Who is the new chair of the Asia-Africa women’s group?

The Women Empowerment & Development Society in Asia-Africa has appointed former President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, as Honorary Chairperson.

In a letter conveying the appointment, the Council & Diplomats committee of the Association stated that Dr. Banda’s choice as the Honorary Chair is hinged on her “outstanding achievement in the field of women development, capacity building and. corporation.”

In her role as the Honorary Chair, Dr Banda will among other things, “lead discussions against, discrimination and limitations on women and girls; join forces with others against gender-based violence and abuse; Support full and effective participation and equal opportunity for women and girls in leadership in all spheres of life – including the workplace; Ensuring all women and girls have access to quality learning, and: Sharing examples of real-life women and girls who are making a difference every day.”

She is also expected to “help Asian and African women improve their ability to adapt to the development of the times and enhance their social status through publicity and education on women development, academic exchanges, and personnel training.”

Dr. Banda’s appointment to chair this important association of women from Africa and Asia is consistent with her life-long commitment to the promotion of issues about women, children, and vulnerable members of society.

Joyce Banda was born April 12, 1950, Malemia, Nyasaland (now Malawi) and Banda’s official government profile states that she obtained a bachelor’s degree from Atlantic International University, an online university based in the United States. During her first marriage, to Roy Kachale, she lived in Nairobi, where she became active in the women’s movement. Her personal experience in an abusive marriage shaped her evolving career in grassroots activism and politics, as did her subsequent marriage to Richard Banda, a barrister would who would later serve as chief justice of Malawi (1992–2002) and whom she credited as being supportive of her efforts. Before focusing on politics, Joyce Banda founded and directed various businesses and organizations, including a garment-manufacturing business, a bakery, the National Association of Business Women of Malawi, and the Joyce Banda Foundation, an organization dedicated to rural development and improving the lives of women and children.

Dr. Joyce Banda rose through the political ranks and served as the vice president (2009–12) and subsequently as the President of Malawi from 2012-to 2014. She was the first female president and credited for turning the country’s economy around. Malawi’s economy was on the verge of collapse in 2012, when she took the saddle of leadership. She immediately instituted several economic reforms which led to significant economic expansion; Malawi’s rate of economic growth rose from 1.8% in 2012 to over 6.2% in 2014.

During her tenure, the country’s operational industrial capacity improved from 35% in 2012 to 85% in July 2014, and the foreign exchange import cover was increased from one week to three and half months in July 2014.

However, there was massive theft of public resources as civil servants and businessperson connived to siphon funds. The scandal, known as cash gate, is believed to have contributed to her removal from office in the 2014 elections.

Dr. Banda is also an entrepreneur, activist, and philanthropist. Before assuming office, she served as a Member of Parliament, Minister of Gender and Child Welfare, Foreign Minister, and Vice President of the Republic of Malawi. While serving as Minister of Gender and Child Welfare, she championed the enactment of The Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill (2006), which provided the legal framework to support the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.

Her unwavering commitment to the promotion of women’s maternal health and reproductive rights led her to establish the Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood, which spearheaded the fight against high maternal mortality rates and the promotion of safe motherhood in Malawi. During her presidency, Malawi registered considerable success in the areas of maternal and child health, reducing the maternal mortality ratio from 675 deaths per 100,000 live births to 460, a reduction of 32%.

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