Women and power: representation and influence in Malawi's parliament

Research reports and studies
February 2016
Tam O'Neil, Ngeyi Kangongolo and Joseph Wales, with Moir Walita Mkandawire

In April 2012, Malawi elected its first female president - Joyce Banda. This signalled a landmark moment for women in Malawian politics. However, after just two years in power, Banda was defeated at the ballot box and the number of women MPs fell by a quarter. This case study uses the 2014 election to examine the state of women's access to parliamentary power in Malawi and the electorate's apparent rejection of women leaders after what was a promising start.

To date, research and advocacy in Malawi have paid more attention to the numbers of women elected rather than their experience and performance once elected. Meanwhile, surveys of parliamentarians are rare, and longitudinal panel surveys even more so. This case study uses a survey to produce comparative (within country) data on the profile, perspectives and experiences of the current cohort of women MP in Malawi to answer the following questions:

  1. What factors infl­uence women’s ability to become MPs?
  2. What factors infl­uence women’s ability to be effective MPs?
  3. Do women MPs promote gender equality and/or represent the interests of other women?
  4. How could support to prospective and elected women MPs be improved?