Despite recent economic growth Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world and there is an increasing feminisation of poverty.
Gender inequality is present in nearly every aspect of women’s lives; in law, education, agriculture, health, employment, credit accessibility and political participation.
Households headed by women have increased dramatically in the last decade as a result of HIV and AIDS and are overrepresented in the poorest quarter of the population. They generally have a larger number of dependents, lower earning capacity and fewer assets and resources.
HIV and AIDS
- At 14% of its population Malawi has one of the highest rates of infection in the world.
- Women are disproportionately affected. 59% of the population aged 15 and over infected by HIV are women.
- Girls are six times more likely to become infected than boys.
High levels of violence against women, women’s low socio-economic status and discriminatory cultural norms and practices prevent women from negotiating safe sex, making them more vulnerable to HIV and AIDS.
Violence against women and harmful traditional practices
Violence against women is a significant problem in Malawi, occurring in the home, community and workplace. Despite constitutional guarantees of equal protection, a discriminatory legal system often leaves women without access to justice, for example when a deceased husband’s family unlawfully takes property from his wife.
Customary laws and norms deny women their constitutional rights and jeopardise women’s safety, freedom and access to property. They perpetuate violence and sexual exploitation of women and include early and forced marriages, sexual cleansing and wife inheritance and practices in some areas such as kupimbira, in which young girls are sold by families to pay off debts.
Lack of political participation
Women are under represented in public and political life. Only 22% of members of parliament are women. Those who make it into politics face violence and discrimination within political parties, their communities and their families. They also lack the education, resources and skills needed when standing for office including policy analysis and media skills. At community level the subjugation of women prevents them from actively participating in local decision-making.
Womankind in Malawi
In 2011, Womankind took forward several active projects from One World Action (OWA) after the charity closed, including projects in Malawi.
Specifically, Womankind’s work in Malawi focuses on:
- strengthening the Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (COWLHA), a network of more than 30,000 women
- reducing the economic vulnerability of women living with HIV through a micro-credit programme in Chiradzulu, a district in Malawi with one of the highest HIV rates in the country
- training and supporting women politicians and aspiring candidates to take up public office
- increasing public awareness on violence against women and women’s knowledge of their human and civic rights
Our achievements in Malawi
- Womankind’s partners COWLHA and the Malawi National Women’s Lobby have been instrumental in pressuring the Malawi Law Commission to review several laws that discriminated against women, such as the Domestic Violence bill.
- Increase in women taking up leadership positions within their communities, at district government level and in national politics.
- Women’s Radio Listeners Clubs have been enormously successful, providing education and support to rural women. The 1,343 registered club members have been able to exchange skills that have enabled financial resourcefulness and income generating activities that are owned and run by women.
How you can help
£25 could provide radios for five Village Women’s Radio Clubs. Please donate today.