School lunch blogger Martha Payne off to Malawi

News for 27 June has been taken from Women’s Views on News.

A Scottish schoolgirl is off to Malawi to visit the kitchen shelter her blog has helped build.

Martha Payne, nine, has been posting pictures and reviews of her lunches online to raise money for Mary’s Meals, a charity which provides food to schoolchildren in some of the world’s poorest countries.

In just a few weeks she has collected over £100,000, enough for a kitchen to be built and serve children at Lirangwe Primary School in Blantyre, Malawi, for a year.

Donations soared after a controversial ban imposed on the blog by her local authority was lifted.

Bosses at Argyll and Bute Council told Martha to stop updating the site, called NeverSeconds, claiming it was causing school catering staff to fear losing their jobs.

But they overturned the ban after thousands of people pledged their support for Martha’s appeal, including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Now Martha is looking forward to visiting the school kitchen with her family later on in the year, which will be named Friends of NeverSeconds.

“Calling the kitchen ‘Friends of NeverSeconds’ is important as it’s a thank you to everyone who has supported me and Mary’s Meals,” said Martha.

“It’s really good because it can feed lots of children for a long time.”

Until then, Martha intends on celebrating by holding a small porridge party where she will serve up likuni phala, the nutritious porridge dish Mary’s Meals feeds to children.

She is also inviting children from around the world to write about their school dinners for NeverSeconds whilst she takes a break over the summer holiday.

New president presses on with change in Malawi

Malawi farmer

Malawi farmer (Photo credit: ILRI)

News for 6th June taken from Women’s Views on News.

Malawi president Joyce Banda continues with aprogramme of change designed to shake off the vestiges of corruption in the country.

Banda came to power in April when the former president, Bingu wa Mutharika, died suddenly of a heart attack.

She has already dumped the presidential jet and fleet of Mercedes cars held dear by her predecessor.

Despite only being in office a month, Banda has also taken swift and decisive action to improve accountability and transparency.

She sacked the police chief, Peter Mukhito, who had been accused of mishandling anti-government riots that resulted in 19 people being shot dead.

She also  replaced the head of Malawi’s state broadcaster.

Mutharika bought the presidential jet in 2009 as he felt it was a “must-have” for a national leader.  The presidential jet cost £220,000 a year to run and is worth £8.4 million, a potentially vital income source for impoverished Malawi.

Banda clearly felt these were luxuries she could do without, saying:

“I can as well use private airlines.  I am already used to hitchhiking.”

She proved her point when she travelled to the UK for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations last weekend.  She left the presidential jet in Africa and instead travelled by British Airways.

Many welcome the decision and see it as a distinct move away from the opulent style of living displayed by Mutharika.  In 2010, he was accused of using £2 million of public funding to build new roads so that he could travel comfortably to his second wedding.

In the same year, he commissioned the building of a multi-million pound statue as a tribute to his former wife.

At a time when many Malawians were and are still living on less than a dollar a day, the donor community were increasingly frustrated by his spending habits and autocratic leadership style.

In 2011, Britain (traditionally one of Malawi’s biggest donors, along with the EU, Norway, Germany and the World Bank) ceased giving aid to the country.

Following the appointment of Banda, the UK has been supportive of her leadership and change in direction.

Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s Minister for International Development, said: “The importance of an African leader giving up the jets and Mercedes is iconic.”

Malawi’s Joyce Banda becomes Africa’s second female president

News for 10 April 2012 is from Women’s Views on News.

Women’s rights champion and vice president Joyce Banda has been sworn in as Malawi’s president following the death of Bingu wa Mutharika who suffered a cardiac arrest on Thursday.

According to Malawi’s constitution, the vice president will assume the presidency should the incumbent die.

But following Mutharika’s death, it was very uncertain as to whether Banda would indeed assume the presidency, as she had fallen out with Mutharika in 2010.

He then kicked her out of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, but she fought hard to remain as vice president and formed her own People’s Party.

She has now become the second female leader in Africa.

The first of is Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  Speaking to the BBC Sirleaf joked that she would no longer be lonely and added that Banda’s appointment had strengthened the potential for women leadership at the highest level.

Banda entered politics in 1999 during Malawi’s second democratic elections. She won a parliamentary seat in the party of then-president Bakili Muluzi.

She has long campaigned for better rights for women and has advocated for gender equality.  She has travelled the country trying to get women involved in business and has also established the Joyce Banda Foundation to advance girls’ education.