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Women Demand Media Visibility. By Mike Van Kamande

Image taken from The Nation

Linda Mwapasa is the first woman in Balaka to be elected a ward councilor since the dawn of democracy in 1993.

The 32-year-old, who studied accounting at Lilongwe Technical College, won Bwaila Ward in Balaka North Constituency on Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ticket in May 2019, five years after vying for a parliamentary seat.

"I had adequate funding for my campaign, but I didn't make use of the media or rather journalists sidelined me," she says.

Women profiling

In 2019, Mwapasa benefitted from the NGO-Gender Coordination Network gender agenda to shine a light on women candidates and calls for equal representation of men and women in politics.

"The media profiling campaign greatly marketed my manifesto to the voters. The media plays a powerful role in shaping what voters know, what they think is important and how they view women. It is a powerful tool for fighting gender stereotypes," she explains.

Madalitso Spark,24, from Chulu Village in Traditional Authority Kalembo, wants to become a councilor like Mwapasa.

She dropped out of school after getting pregnant, but re-enrolled and obtained her Malawi School Certificate of Education after giving birth to fulfil her dream.

Repeated media portrayals of women aspiring for leadership positions have fired her up to try her luck in 2025.

She says: "Positive media coverage of successful women improves perceptions and leads to future electoral gains for women.

"The media provides information, educates women and give them courage to race for key governance and decision-making positions."

Florence Mapisi, 38, is a successful businessperson in Chiwaya Village, T/A Nkaya. She was area development committee secretary for three consecutive terms.

She urges the media to give women positive visibility as the country struggles to achieve equal representation of men and women in leadership positions as well as in the media.

Mapisi feels rural women are left behind because the media is concentrated in urban areas and is male-dominated.

Thandizo Mphwiyo, NGO-GCN chairperson for women in politics and decision-making, says women participation remains low though decentralisation gives them more room to participate in local governance and decision-making.

"The media should popularise women experiences as a platform for current and potential female leaders to articulate their diverse stories and become newsmakers," she says.

Mphwiyo urges media houses against shunning women as it contributes to low women representation in influential positions.

She calls for increased the pace to achieve the Beijing Platform and Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality, which requires no gender to occupy over 60 percent of seats nin public service and political appointments.

The two thirds rule is engraved in the country's Gender Equality Act cited by marchers in nationwide protests against President Lazarus Chakwera's failure to achieve legally acceptable representation of men and women in boards of public institutions.

Media practitioner Eziaius Mkandawire says the media plays a vital role in advocacy for more women representation in decision-making positions, but coverage of women candidates remains low.

He explains: "Women in politics are sidelined and studies reveal that media coverage on women tends to focus on their domestic aspects rather