Women Empowered for Leadership (WE4L) commissioned a research study to assess the effectiveness of social media as a tool of opening up spaces for women leaders’ participation in Malawi with a specific focus on gathering information on the trends, possible case studies and projected future trends of social/online media, and its use by women who are aspiring for leadership or currently in leadership, as well as how it’s used to support or derail them. The paper also looked at social/online media sentiment on women leaders and how it influences public perception of women in leadership positions in Malawi. Finally, it also analyzed social/online media versus traditional media to determine the added value of investing in social and online media to further the objectives of the programme. The research was undertaken between May and June 2020. This research primarily depended on qualitative methods and approaches.

The study observes that Facebook and WhatsApp are the main platforms being used by women leaders. WhatsApp and Facebook were able to accelerate the profiles of women leaders, effectively enhancing their visibility among voters. Online platforms have amplified on who and what the women leaders were offering. Most of the women in leadership activism was done by 50-50 campaigners other than the individual women leaders which the study felt is a lost opportunity but it is happening like this because of limited personal knowledge on the part of women leaders on how they can exploit social media. 

The type of social media used by women leaders is dependent on a number of factors, including; cost, level of digital literacy, context of voters, among others. There has been a common realization that the majority of voters in Malawi are youth, and are active on online platforms.  “ 2019 elections online messaging was widespread, effective  and most women had won compared to other past elections”, this quote from a woman leader in Nkhatabay nicely sums up the value addition of online platforms. 

The cost of social media is a huge set back and hindrance to women’s active political participation on online platforms, especially when issues of access and control of resources are a challenge due to patriarchy. In other words, the use of technology by women leaders is low. There is potential of growth, if there is adequate investment made for women leaders to utilize through their sponsored pages.

On managing fake news on social media, there is need for the women leaders to have a strong team around them when pursuing politics. A team that provides a women leader with insight on what is important and provides verified sources. Female politicians need to build a social media team and a social media strategy for collecting, consolidating, disseminating, verifying information and building the brand as a woman in politics. 

Without doubt, online and social platforms is offering a window by promoting women leaders election into office. It is a tool within the control of a woman leader seeking to occupy leadership and decision making office. In this digital era, use of ICT tools such as social media outlets, has proven to be one of the tools for advancement of women in many different ways.