JB drums up Malawi support for social services, ending US tour

President Joyce Banda says apart from attending the United Nations General Assembly, she took advantage of her visit to the United States of America to woo support towards programmes aimed at improving the social service delivery systems in Malawi.

“I came here to do three things: attend the UN General Assembly, attend side meetings on behalf of SADC and the Malawi Government and also to fundraise for various programmes which we have lined up to transform the lives of the poor people back home,” she told journalists.

The Malawi leader observed that it was disheartening to note that almost 50 years after attaining independence, poverty levels are still high among the people, especially in remote areas, with the majority of the population living below the poverty line and children, especially girls of the school going age not in school.

On poverty reduction, President Banda said alongside six other African leaders, she attended a high level breakfast meeting with former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in New York City at the auspices of the World Bank during which they shared experiences on improving delivery of services to citizens.

Malawi Pres. Joyce Banda: Drums up support for Malawi social service
Malawi Pres. Joyce Banda: Drums up support for Malawi social service

During the meeting, she said a Global network for Service Delivery was established with Malawi as a member, and the World Bank promised to assist Malawi in fight against poverty by strengthening governance structures such as offices of the Accountant General, Auditor General and the Anti -Corruption Bureau, among others, so that they are more effective in their operations.

“As you know, delivery of social services cannot be effective if the governance systems are not in order,” she said.

She said she also held a donor conference on education with the UN Envoy on Global Education, another former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Partners in Global Education to seek their support towards Malawi’s education sector.

She said during the meeting she reiterated her Government’s commitment to the promotion of education, especially girls’ education through recruitment, re-admission and retention of girls in school and asked the donors’ support to realise this dream.

She said in response the World Bank promised to support Malawi through social cash transfer for retention of girls in school.

“We believe that this initiative will enable our girls have the necessities they need to remain in school till the end’, said the President.

In addition, she said, the World Bank also promised to provide US$15 million towards higher education, but did not elaborate.

She said UNESCO has promised to support Malawi’s education sector with teacher training so as to reduce the teacher learner ratio, especially in primary schools, which currently stands at one teacher to 400 learners against the recommended ration of one teacher to 60 learners.

On its part UNICEF pledged to assist Malawi with teacher training and infrastructure development, specifically, construction of girls hostels to create a conducive environment that would encourage girls remain in school, while an organisation called Dubai Cares promised to support towards Early Childhood Development; and Econet promised to promote computer education at an early age to reverse the current trend where learners are exposed to computer skills at tertiary level, according to Banda.

“At the end of that meeting, the Global Partnership for Education promised US$90 million towards the education sector in Malawi,” she said.

The President also met the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director, Babatunde Osotimehin, who pledged to continue working with the Malawi government in advancing issues of women. UNFPA recognised the benefits realised from the Presidential Initiative for Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood and pledged continued support to ensure more Malawians benefit from the initiatives, among other things, by improving the working conditions of traditional leaders who are involved, under the initiative, in mobilising communities in the promotion of women’s rights and are at the centre of the fight for maternal deaths in addition to playing an important role in ending maternal deaths among their communities.

Turning to the UN General Assembly, Dr. Banda said she highlighted the important role played by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in concentrating international efforts around the common purpose of eradicating poverty and in providing a common framework for monitoring progress. She said Malawi was on track to achieving four of the eight Goals — reducing child mortality, combating HIV/AIDS, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

She, however, said there was a need to reverse the top-down approach on which the Millennium Development Goals were based to ensure that income generation for poor households should be given a priority, saying many issues concerning population growth were affected by the lack of income — malnutrition, girls’ access to education and maternal health, to mention a few.

Before going to New York, the Malawi President went to Austin, Texas, where among other engagements, she delivered the 15th Annual Grosvenor Distinguished Lecture at the Texas State University on the role of transformational partnerships improving the living conditions of the people.

In her speech, President Banda said transformational partnerships are based on more effective ways of engaging with each other, that help drive positive and long lasting change and are based on shared vision among multiple stakeholders arguing that new patterns of development must be based on partnerships shaped by common interests, and shared purposes in order to achieving a better and fairer world for everyone.

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