• Sunday, February 25, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Joyce Banda, proving to the world it’s not a matter of gender

An entrepreneur, activist, politician and a philanthropist, The former President of Malawi, Her Excellency Joyce Banda was Malawi’s first female president and Africa’s second. Voted as Africa’s most powerful woman by Forbes Magazine for two years running and voted as one of the most powerful women in the world, Joyce Banda is a champion for the rights of women, children, the disabled and other marginalized groups.

Before becoming President of Malawi, Joyce Banda 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, Joyce Banda championed the enactment of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill in 2006, which provides a legal framework and instrument for elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

Banda is credited for turning round Malawi’s ailing economy which was on the verge of collapse when she became president in April 2012. She instituted a number of economic reforms which did not only bring the economy back on right truck but also saw the economy growing from 1.8% in 2012 to over 6.2 % in 2014; improved the operational industrial capacity from 35% in 2012 to 85% in July 2014; enhanced Malawi’s foreign exchange import cover from one week in 2014 to three and half months in July 2014; and also turned around Malawi’s fuel cover from 1 day in 2014 to 15 days in 2014 at any given time. In the areas of democracy, good governance and rule of law, she repealed a number of draconian laws that infringed on people’s civil liberties, media freedom and weakened institutions of good governance and rule of law.

Banda’s unwavering commitment to promotion of women’s maternal health and reproductive rights saw her establish Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood, which spearheaded the fight against high maternal mortality and promotion of safe motherhood in Malawi. Remarkably during the two year period of her presidency, Malawi registered considerable success in the areas of maternal and child health and reproductive health in general as the country reduced maternal mortality ratio from 675 deaths per 100,000 live births to 460. The achievement is attributed to the model which Banda introduced, which was a balanced act of both traditional and technical dimensions and approaches.

Staying fast to her humanitarian convictions, Banda sold the multi-million dollar presidential jet and donated 30% of her salary to Malawi Council for the handicapped (MACOHA), an organisation for people with disabilities during her two year of presidency.

Joyce-Banda

A recipient of more than 15 international accolades including “Hunger Project Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger” shared with President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique in 1997, Banda is a strong advocate for women and girls’ emancipation and empowerment and a prominent civil rights campaigner. She founded the Joyce Banda Foundation International, which has guided projects from empowering women, rural communities to providing orphans education. Currently, the Joyce Banda Foundation International has benefitted over 1.3 million people in Malawi through various programs and interventions ranging from economic empowerment, agriculture and food security, education, water and sanitation, youth development just to mention a few. Among many other organisations, she established the National Association of Business Women, which lends women start-up cash to build small businesses, and the Young Women’s Leadership Network, which

mentors female students in schools.

On the international scene, Banda was instrumental in formation of organisations like African Federation of Women Entrepreneurs (AFWE), currently running in 41 countries in Africa, Council for the Economic Empowerment of Women in Africa (CEEWA) and Americans and  Africans Business Women’s Alliance (AABWA) of which she served as First President.

Banda sits on a number international organisations. These include Executive Advisory Committee of UNIFEM, Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health and Scientific Advisory Board of the Programs in Global health and Social change for Harvard Medical School.

Joyce Banda has been a panelist and motivational speaker at a number of international conferences and forums, including the International Conference on Women in Beijing, the American and African Business Women’s Africa Conference in London and the Women Deliver Conference in Washington, DC.

Kemi Ajumobi