From Talking To People To Speaking On Their Behalf; Aisha Adams Reflections in Parliament

Adams after the day's deliberations in Parliament
Adams after the day’s deliberations in Parliament

Last year, we wrote about the brave woman who defeated the injustice and became the lone Muslim female Member of Parliament after the 2014 Tripartite General Elections.

Now one year on, Malawi Muslims Website caught up with honourable Adams to learn about her reflections in the august house. Hassan Phiri had a question and answer session with the Mangochi Nkungulu MP.

Hassan Phiri (HP): Who is Aisha Mambo Adams?

Aisha Mambo (A): Am a member of parliament for Mangochi Mkungulu, married to Mr Sheriff Adams, we are both from Mangochi district. We have four children. This is my first time to be elected the Member of Parliament, and am proud of my position.

HP: You struggled to reach this far and you have been a radio presenter at Radio Islam where people knew you as “Achakongwe”, and now that you are the member of parliament (MP) how has been the journey so far?

A: I am always happy that being at Radio Islam was a good starting point, because for one to be elected, you need to be known among people, when I was at Radio Islam everybody liked and knew me so well. So when I launched my plans to vie for the position of an MP, I capitalized on my popularity. Whatever am doing now as an MP is for the people in my constituency and I think that they are happy with my performance so far. They have already started differentiating me with my predecessors.

HP: Do you still interact with people you made friendship while working for Radio Islam?

A: why not, they are still friends (laughing) some of them we interact, mostly radio Islam employees, we visit one another, exchange gifts, we chat, we meet and in joy it.

“Achakongwe” now an MP

HP: It has been a while since you left the media and become a member of parliament, what are the challenges that you have met in your new job so far?

A: It feels good to be a member of parliament; I thank Allah for giving me this job. I like taking peoples grievances and present them to parliament. But on the other hand it is challenging because am the only Muslim woman MP in parliament and it hard to advance the interests of our Muslim women in parliament.

HP: How does it feel like to be the only Muslim woman MP in parliament?

A: I don’t feel good, had it been that we are more than five that could have been better. What matters most now is about my people in Mangochi Mkungulu, I have to deliver (what I promised to them). I visit them regularly, take their grievances and report them to government (ministries and departments). Some issues I do them on my own with support of the people since I have a good working relationship with the constituents and the chiefs.

HP: There has been an outcry from the general public that our girls are rushing into early marriages, what do you have to say on this regard?

A: For this country to have more Muslims in decision making positions we need to be well educated. If we are targeting our girls we should give them good education for that to be achieved. (We have an obligation to ensure that our) girls avoid early marriages (at all cost) and concentrate on education with an aim go to the university and college in order get good qualifications before they get married.

HP: How should Muslims address the problem of girl early marriages considering the fact that most of the girls that are forced to do so due to poverty?

A: I would like to commend organisations such as Islamic Zakaat Fund (IZF), other organisations and individuals who are helping Muslim girls in the country to go to universities here in Malawi and outside the country. These organisations need more funds so that more girls will benefit from these initiatives. But also I would like to urge Muslim organisations to empower our women by giving them funds to start small scale businesses so that they will be able to support their children on their own.

HP: What are you doing on your own as the Member of Parliament to address the problem of early marriages in conjunction with the Muslim community in Malawi?

A: In my constituency, almost 95 percent of the population are Muslims. The chiefs, village elders, councillors, youths and myself sit down and discuss how we can help these girls. We established by laws in our community that every child be it a girl or a boy should be going to school as you know that Mangochi Mkungulu is situated along lake Malombe (where fishing is their daily occupation) and those who do not go to school are punished accordingly. On top of that me and some trusted friends are paying school fees to over forty needy students from my constituents. This number is expected to increase in the next coming years, insha Allah.

HP: Eleven United Democratic Front (UDF) MP are supporting government. There has been a call for the speaker to invoke section 65 so that you should be evicted from parliament. You happen to be one of the eleven who moved to the government side, what do you have to say on this development?

A: Our relationship with the government is okay, and I am surprised that there are some people who are against it. The law is clear that for us to move from the opposition side to government side does not mean that we have crossed the floor. We have not joined DPP as a political party but we have joined the government side. We are still UDF and we will be UDF forever, only that as UDF we have chosen to work with government and there is no problem with that.

HP: But this has left your political party to be without a voice, recently honourable Lillian Patel was chased away from attending a business committee meeting caucus?

A: We are working on it, shortly honourable Patel will be back in the committee. But what I can say is that we are still recognised by the speaker as UDF members of parliament. For more on this you can ask the party spokes person, he can tell you more on this.

HP: how can you assure those people who voted for you in Mangochi Mkungulu that you are still UDF?

A: I do speak and debate on any topic that is being debated on the floor at any other particular time as a member of UDF for Mangochi Mkungulu. I did not join any (other) political party, I am UDF and will remain UDF forever. It’s just that UDF decided to help the DPP led government to run the affairs of this country.

My final remarks could be to ask local Muslim organisations to work together and engage international Islamic organisations to support the Muslim MPs to fulfil their projects in their respective constituencies. There are only 22 Muslim MPs in parliament and am the only Muslim woman.

These organisations can also support those people who aspire to contest in the 2019 general elections so that we can have adequate Muslim representation in Parliament.

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