The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) have challenged President Lazarus Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance-led administration walk the talk on women economic empowerment by allocating more public contracts to women entrepreneurs.
The two institutions say it is disheartening to note that less than one percent of government contracts goes to female contractors.
CHRR is a human rights non-governmental organization in Malawi while AFIC is a Uganda-based largest membership pan-African civil society organization and resource centre that promotes citizens right of access to information (ATI) in Africa.
In their joint statement as part of the activities to commemorate the 2021 International Women’s Day, CHRR and AFIC said their recent study have shown that women, who make up a majority of the Malawi population, continue to be under-represented in many key areas, including businesses.
The study further established that female contractors often face sexual harassment, where individuals in positions of power demanded for sexual favours as bribes to get contracts.
The findings were corroborated by another study done by the World Bank, which indicated that female contractors’ capital requirements for registering as a contractor with the National Roads Authority (RA), for instance, were very high and prohibitive to women.
The World Bank study also established that female-owned contractors in the roads sector faced considerable barriers and challenges to accessing procurement tender and winning procurement contracts for road works projects, including high minimum capital requirements to register as a vendor, inadequate access to credit, high financing costs, fewer networking opportunities, inadequate technical and managerial skills, and gender bias in tendering process.
CHRR executive director Michael Kaiyatsa and his AFIC counterpart Gilbert Sendugwa have described the development as retrogressive and outrageous.
Kaiyatsa and Sendugwa argue that women have as much right to do business with the government as their male counterparts.
They cite Section 20 (1) of the Constitution of Malawi, which prohibits discrimination of persons in any form because “all persons are, under any law, guaranteed equal and effective protection against discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status or condition”.
On the other hand, Section 4 (1) of the Gender Equality Act prohibits sex discrimination.
The organisations noted that in his State of the Nation Address delivered in Parliament on Friday 4 September 2020, President Lazarus Chakwera pledged to empower youth and women to unlock the economic potential of Malawi as a whole.
“While this is commendable, the government must put in place deliberate measures to increase the percentage of contracts going to women and youth in Malawi. The PPDA Act provides for equality for women generally, allowing participation of both male and female in public procurement, as long as they meet the required qualifications as bidders. Section 31(3) stipulates that a bidder shall not be excluded from participating in public procurement and disposal of assets on the basis of nationality, race, religion, gender or any other criterion not related to qualification, except to the extent provided for in this Act,” say Kaiyatsa and Sendugwa in the statement.
“While the intentions of this provision are good, CHRR and AFIC express concern that the Act does not make provisions for specific target groups to benefit from such an arrangement. The PPDA Act does not even mention of improving women entrepreneurs’ participation in public contracting.
“While the Act makes provision for some preferential schemes, there is no clarity on which gender is expected to benefit from this. For example, under section 44(10) of the Act, Procurement and Disposal Entities (PDEs) are obliged to give preference of 60 percent to indigenous black Malawians and 40 percent to others. However, the provision does not state what percentage goes to women. Moreover, nowhere in this Act are women included as a social category,” they add.
Kaiyatsa and Sendugwa say as people of Malawi continue to reflect on and celebrate the contributions of women to society, the government and all key stakeholders need to consider putting in place deliberate efforts to increase women’s representation and participation in public contracting.
They further recommend that the government should review the PPDA Act to provide for clarity on the preferential treatment requirements and provisions, considering what percentage of contracts should go to women, just like Kenya has done.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :