Former Malawi president Joyce Banda: U.S. investment in Africa helps promote gender equality
The U.S. government’s investment in the development of African nations has helped expand the programs that help women, said Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi.
In a speech on K-State’s campus Monday, Banda advocated for gender equality and called for the U.S. government, in light of its current foreign policy, to continue to work with African nations. Banda’s speech is the 177th of the Landon Lecture Series, the university’s most prestigious lecture.
“My goal is to ensure that all of you listening today leave this auditorium that you will see it is our great task to promote gender equality and development around the world,” she said.
When Banda was a child, she said she learned one of her friends was unable to attend school because her family could not afford the $6 to keep her enrolled.
“I was 14 years old when I was aware to this type of injustice,” she said, noting 130 million girls worldwide are not in school. “Isn’t it tragic that millions of girls are not in school for no fault of their own?”
Through her political career, Banda served as Malawi president form 2012 to 2014, as well as the vice president, foreign minister, minister of gender and child welfare, and as a member of Malawi’s Parliament. She worked for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill of 2006, which supports the prevention of violence against women and girls in Malawi.
She has worked on gender equality issues and focused on education for young girls.
“I made up my mind at that age that I was going to grow up and send as many girls to school as I could,” she said.
She said when African nations began to win independence, the United States saw an opportunity to begin investing the continent’s nations and to build partnerships.
Banda noted the work from U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
But the current president’s focus on America First foreign policy is the chance for the African nations to get their priorities right, focusing on minimizing the income inequality gap in the continent.
For African nations to continue to develop, Banda said the United States does not need to send aid, but be willing to continue trade with the countries.
“What Africa needs is trade,” she said. “I say this not saying shut out and don’t give aid. But if we want to make an impact, we must create sustainable employment opportunities for the 50 percent unemployed college graduates across Africa so they will not swim across the Mediterranean to go looking for opportunities in Europe.”
She said there is also plenty the United States can learn from Africa, noting four women, including herself, have served as presidents of African nations.
“The biggest question I have is, how can the United States of America, being a democracy for more than 200 years, not elected a single female president?” she asked, to audience applause. “I don’t get it because Africa has done well.”
In closing, Banda thanked K-State President Richard Myers, a retired U.S. Military General, for his involvement in securing Banda’s succession to the presidency of Malawi after the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. She said when he died, pressure built among some to not allow Banda to become president, in spite of the country’s constitution.
Myers, and the U.S. Government, helped make sure Banda was sworn in as the president, she said.
“Myers got international support and intervened and I was able to take oath 72 hours later,” she said.
Prior to Banda’s speech, Myers said he is lucky to know Banda and said she is the definition of courage, referring to her bravery to become president when people were attempting to stop her.
“She said the country is more important than my personal safety,” Myers said. “That’s courage.”