President Bingu wa Mutharika has justified the hiring of his wife, First Lady Callista Mutharika as Safe Motherhood Coordinator – on government payroll receiving close to one million kwacha per month.

Her appointment sparked public concerns as to why she was put on payroll when her predecessor, Vice President Joyce Banda was never paid.

Speaking when he presided over local commemorations of World Women’s Day in Lilongwe, President Mutharika said the First Lady was doing a great job to develop the country in her capacity as Safe Motherhood Coordinator.

“It is unfortunate that some people say I put her in cabinet. She is not in cabinet but doing a lot in her capacity as Safe Motherhood Coordinator to develop the country. But because you women, pull down each other sometimes, some of you fellow women are not happy with her role,” said the President.

Talking about women empowerment, the President urged men in the country to respect women.

“All men learn to respect women. Let me remind you that no matter how big you are you were born from a woman. Women fed you, bathed you, so they need all the respect from us,” said the President, calling on lawmakers to review laws on property grabbing so that widows are protected.

The President also denounced some negative cultural practices like kulowa kufa in which a widower marries the sister of his late wife and kuchotsa fumbi in which a widow is forced to have sex with someone for ‘cleansing’.

Earlier, Executive Director for Gender Coordination Network, Emma Kalia appealed to the President to find ways of economically empowering women.

“We thank you for MARDEF loans but not all women are benefiting but I would propose that another way to exclusively empower women economically be devised,” said Kalia.

When Minister of Women, Reen Kachere took to the podium there was nothing specific she spoke about women empowerment save for a few political ramblings.

Throughout his speech, President Bingu wa Mutharika did not talk anything on the PAC conference which on Thursday resolved that he should resign in sixty days or failure that call for a referendum in 90 days – and if push comes to shove there would be countrywide mass demonstrations.

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