05:38 am - Wednesday 21 November 2018

Promoting Gender Equality in Malawi

By Amalawi - Wed Oct 22, 3:53 pm

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Malawi:  In Malawi, more women than men are poor, Malawi is ranked 174 out of 187 countries in the 2014 UN Gender Inequality Index.  Most women are employed in the country’s important agricultural sector, but they earn only 78 percent of what their male counterparts earn. There are fewer women than men in non-agriculture jobs, and more men than women are literate. The country has high rates of death from childbirth, representing about 16 percent of all deaths of women aged 15-49, according to government data. Violence against women is widespread.

Imbedded in these disparities is Malawi’s shockingly high rate of child marriage – one of the highest globally. One out of two girls in the country will be married by her 18th birthday, according to the United Nations.

President Mutharika said that his “government is committed to gender parity, women empowerment and upholding of women’s rights as a prerequisite to poverty reduction and sustainable development.” However, an analysis of Mutharika’s days in office by the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation – a leading Malawian nongovernmental organization – and the Center for Development of People notes that the government seems to have abandoned the gender equality agenda.

Women in Malawi

Women in Malawi

The good news is that Mutharika’s government still has an opportunity to empower women, and promote equality. Importantly, it can take concrete measures to end child marriage, which curtails girls’ education, and makes them more likely to die from childbirth and face violence in their marriages.

Mutharika’s government should enact the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Bill, a comprehensive family law proposed in 2006 that would protect against child and forced marriage and make 18 the minimum marriage age. The move would support Malawi’s economic and social development, and it could convince Malawian women that his government is genuinely committed to their equality and empowerment.

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