Winnie Mandela and Malawi

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of South African former president Nelson Mandela. CREDIT: Getty Images

AS one among many Malawian women who are temporarily resident in South Africa, the death of Mamma Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has prompted us to reflect deeply about the role of women on Malawi’s political stage.

Throughout this week, the tributes have been pouring in from leaders, celebrities and ordinary people for Mamma Winnie who died aged 81.

Like her late husband, Nelson Mandela who was South Africa’s first black president, she was also widely recognised as a symbol of resistance against white minority rule.

In her lifetime, Mamma Winnie refused to bow down by the imprisonment of her husband, even in the face of her own harassment by security forces, detention and banishment.

What was even more remarkable about this woman was that she refused to be regarded simply as Mandela’s wife, rejected patriarchy and pursued her private affairs while dedicating herself to the ANC.

For me, what stands out clearly, is that here was a woman who in her early years clearly understood the values of humanity – ‘Ubuntu’ – as they say here, and refused to conform to the common demands that the best place for a woman to be is the kitchen.

How many of us in Malawi, if I may ask, are prepared to campaign against patriarchy, the status in which men hold the power and make decisions that usually exclude women?

So, for my generation, the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela offers us a moment of introspection on the roles that we could be playing on Malawi’s political stage.

What though, are we especially the younger generation of women, doing about making a stand against patriarchy, corruption, tribalism and the bad practices that are keeping women and the rest of our fellow Malawians in such state of oppression?

What contributions are we making to bring about change we so need in our beautiful country, other than just postings on Facebook?

Time has arrived, I believe, for self-examination, to take up various roles, to organise, to educate and to support each other so that we place more fellow-women in positions of leadership.

The Women 50-50 Campaign, for at least 50 percent representation of women in our parliament, in our councils and on the boards of state-owned enterprises is is good start.  It’s a campaign that Mamma Winnie would surely have been proud of.



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