International Women’s Day commemoration: Illovo Sugar Malawi Plc reinforces its commitment towards women empowerment

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, which falls today, March 8, Illovo Sugar Malawi Plc joins Malawi, UN Women, the United Nations and rest of the World in commemorating women’s achievements and contributions.

In a statement, Illovo Sugar Malawi Plc Managing Director, Lekani Katandula said going forward, the company will continue to reinforce its commitment to playing an active role in driving gender equality.

Illovo MD Lekani Katandula

“Although there is a shift within the country with more women taking up leadership positions as well as an improvement in gender policies and practices, the road to achieving equal and fair representation of women in leadership positions remains long.

“In recognition of the need to step up our own efforts, Illovo Sugar Malawi launched a special forum called the Illovo Women in Leadership (IWIL) in October last year to assist with progress towards female equality in leaderships roles within its operations.

“The forum is tasked to find solutions and interventions around the acceleration of women inclusion into leadership positions within the organisation. The platform will be the driving force behind empowering Illovo’s female leaders, promoting gender equality in the workplace, celebrating success stories, and offering opportunities to create positive change.”

He adds that they have set out “ambitious but attainable goals for internal change and will be working towards influencing wider social change where possible”.

“We are hopeful that IWIL will accelerate our progress towards achieving at least 30% women representation in leadership positions by the year 2025 from the current 12%.

The investment for the girls child at MUST

“Through active mentorship and the women’s forum initiatives, we hope to see a female workforce that is more confident and empowered to take on the next leadership position, whilst also empowering their colleagues and subordinates.

“Additionally, we hope that career talks to girls in secondary schools and universities will motivate and empower girls to be change-makers and strive to hold leadership positions as they join the corporate world or run their own businesses.”

The International Women’s Day is being celebrated under the theme ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’ which highlights the need for inclusive and transformative technology and digital education.

Katandula said this resonates well with Illovo Sugar Malawi’s initiative last year, when the company partnered with Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) by providing funding for the University’s Endowment Fund worth K150 million — “which aims to give financial support to disadvantaged but deserving students, with specific target being the Girl Child”.

Katandula said: “This further supports Illovo Sugar Malawi’s diversity and inclusion strategy for higher women representation within not only its leadership positions but within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

“The decision to invest in this MUST Endowment Fund is driven towards facilitating more women in STEM-inclined roles as Illovo Sugar stands to gain from more young women completing their STEM studies — ready to take on possible future opportunities within the organisation.”

He thus said the partnership significantly contributes towards the UN theme — ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’ — as its initiatives include ‘Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging’ (DEIB) agenda within the Illovo Sugar Africa Group.

Illovo Sugar Malawi Plc is listed on the Malawi Stock Exchange with 76% of the issued share capital held by the Illovo Group and the balance by public and other institutional investors.

The corporate office is based at Limbe with two operations at Nchalo in the south of Malawi and Dwangwa in the mid-central region, producing sugar cane and raw and refined sugar, together with specialty sugars at Nchalo.

Illovo Sugar Malawi is the country’s sole sugar producer with more than 70% of total sugar sales sold to domestic consumer and industrial markets, and the balance exported to preferential markets in the EU and the USA, and the surrounding region.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is aligned with the priority theme for the upcoming 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women: ‘Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls’.

International Women’s Day began in New York City on March 8, 1857, when female textile workers marched in protest of unfair working conditions and unequal rights for women.

It was one of the first organized strikes by working women, during which they called for a shorter work day and decent wages and from then on it became a focal point in the women’s rights movement — bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights and violence & abuse against women.

International Women’s Day is commemorated in a variety of ways worldwide — as a public holiday in several countries, and observed socially or locally in others to celebrate and promote the achievements of women.

The UN observes the holiday in connection with a particular issue, campaign, or theme in women’s rights while in some parts of the world, it still reflects its political origins, being marked by protests and calls for radical change.

In other areas, particularly in the West, it is largely sociocultural and centered on a celebration of womanhood.

According the UN Women, the commemoration will explore the impact of the digital gender gap on widening economic and social inequalities and also spotlight the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online and ICT-facilitated gender-based violence.

The website said bringing women and other marginalized groups into technology results in more creative solutions and has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality.

“Their lack of inclusion, by contrast, comes with massive costs,” the website said. “As per UN Women’s Gender Snapshot 2022 report, women’s exclusion from the digital world has shaved US$1 trillion from the gross domestic product of low- and middle-income countries in the last decade — a loss that will grow to US$1.5 trillion by 2025 without action.

“Reversing this trend will require tackling the problem of online violence, which a study of 51 countries revealed 38% of women had personally experienced.

“A gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology and digital education can increase the awareness of women and girls regarding their rights and civic engagement. Advancements in digital technology offer immense opportunities to address development and humanitarian challenges, and to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“Unfortunately, the opportunities of the digital revolution also present a risk of perpetuating existing patterns of gender inequality. Growing inequalities are becoming increasingly evident in the context of digital skills and access to technologies, with women being left behind as the result of this digital gender divide.

“The need for inclusive and transformative technology and digital education is therefore crucial for a sustainable future.”

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