Former president Joyce Banda has expressed concern over the continued exclusion of rural women and girls in development programmes and policies although they make up the larger population in Malawi.
Banda has also deplored the tendency by various stakeholders to speak on behalf of rural women instead of giving them a platform to voice out their concerns by themselves.
“Oftentimes we assume we can speak on behalf of women living in rural areas but that is far from reality because we live in different environments and different realities. The women in rural areas have also made it clear to those of us who are champions, activists and advocates for women’s rights that there shall be nothing about them without them,” she said.
Banda made the remarks in Lilongwe on Monday during the Gender Barometer Launch.
The former Head of State drew the participants’ attention to the theme for 2020 CSW64, which is: “Generation Equality Beijing +25; Realizing Gender Equality and the Empowerment of all women and Girls”.
Banda, who governed the country from 2012 to 2014, said the theme is of paramount importance to African women, especially women and girls living in rural areas as it recognizes the need for inclusivity in generations as a way of passing on the baton to the young generation who have the energy to continue with gender activism.
“It is therefore with this understanding that Women’s Rights Organizations alongside Government of Malawi and UN Women have been organizing nationwide comprehensive consultations in order to bring together women and girls of various backgrounds to amplify their voices in regard to the Beijing +25 process. This meeting therefore is aimed at consolidating voices of those women who contributed to the three regional meetings that came before this one,” she narrated as she presided over the conference.
Banda said although she was excited to be being part of the review process, she felt very saddened considering that after 25 years since Beijing, there is still a wide gap of inequalities between males and females in Malawi.
“We have done well in some sections and we have done bad in others. We have done well because we have had a female Chief Justice, a female Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson, a female Chief Secretary to the Cabinet and district commissioners. Also, when I was president, I appointed over 100 women in key decision-making positions,” she said.
However, she expressed concern that Malawu is not moving forward in reducing gender-based violence.
“We have just passed through the 16 Days of Activism, but I try to ask myself if we are really making any progress on reducing inequalities looking at the atrocities that are being committed against women and the girl child? Malawians, let us hold our hands and stand united so that we see the difference through actions and not rhetoric. This really breaks my heart as I view it as unleashing total terror on women.
“How can a grown man defile a five months old baby? May I ask why in some rural communities a woman will till the land, plant the crop, nurture it, harvest, store, process, cook and yet eat last and least, why?” she asked.
On her part, Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC) executive director, Emma Kaliya, disclosed that the barometer data is showing that Malawi is one of six SADC countries that have recently put in place laws and policies that allow adolescents to access Sexual and Reproductive Health services without third party authorization.
Kaliya added that progress has also been made with 22 in Neonatal mortality where the global target is 12 per 1000.
“Similarly, Malawi has made progress in percentage reduction of new HIV infections, among females in 15-24 age category. Additionally, Malawi has also made progress in the reduction of mother to child transmission of HIV,” she said.
United Nations Development Programme representative Shigeki Kamatsubara said Malawi should do more in fighting for women and girls rights.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :