Malawian Vice President and women’s rights activist Joyce Banda became the country’s first female president on Saturday when she was sworn in following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. Supporters cheered on Saturday in celebration in the nation’s capital, Lilongwe.
The south African country, which has undergone severe economic recession in recent years, was given the official news of their president’s death several days after his actual death and leadership was yet unclear. Banda’s falling out with Mutharika in 2010 raised questions and controversy over her succession among some. She had been expelled from her party over the president’s decision to prepare his brother as his replacement. Banda formed her own party, the People’s Party, while remaining as vice president.
As a longtime women’s activist, Banda was active in organizing around women’s empowerment in her country. She marched in January with Malawian women calling for an end to street attacks on women. She founded the Young Women Leaders Network, as well as the Joyce Banda Foundation, an organization that supports young girls, many of whom are HIV positive. “We have no choice in Africa but to invest in women,” Banda said in a speech last December.