Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Ministry of Information, Culture and Communications Technology, Esmie Kainja, has challenged Christian women to assume a leading role in educating women and ending sexual and gender-based violence across the globe.
Kainja observed that poverty has a female face in many parts of Africa, including Malawi, because, although they constitute a larger part of the population, very few women are educated enough to manage their lives without depending on their spouses.
The PS was speaking in Lilongwe on Saturday when she opened a day-long conference of the Global Forum for Women Enterpreneurs (GFWE) – a global network of women believers and entrepreneurs – and Malawi Widows Association (MAWIA).
“The future of gender equality socially and economically lies in the little girls across Africa. If we do not educate the girls, we shall perpetuate dependency and vulnerability of women,” said Kainja.
She stated that in Malawi, 68 percent of women are in the informal sector of the economy while 70 percent are engaged in agriculture, yet less than three percent of them own land.
Kainja, therefore, emphasised that female entrepreneurship should be encouraged and supported to help African women to fast track the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aspirations of the Africa Agenda 2063.
“Women entrepreneurs at various levels face numerous problems and obstacles. In general, women’s access to capital and markets is very low globally and is characterized by many obstacles and setbacks. So, while we are here to celebrate these successes made by some women, let us also strategise on how we can overcome the challenges we still face. The current conference theme is very significant as it is driving women in that right direction,” Kainja emphasised.
MAWIA chairperson Andrina Mchiela said widowhood remains a key identity that deepens women’s oppression and widows remain the poorest and most vulnerable individuals in many societies.
Mchiela lamented that patriarchal customary laws and cultural norms have often endorsed property grabbing by widows in-laws despite protections she may have under statutory law.
“Social barriers prevent these widows from accessing justice and stifle their voices from being heard. Without meaningful inheritance, skills, support or opportunities, widows often succumb to the viscous cycle of poverty,” she explained.
Mchiela therefore appealed to government and GFWE to devise deliberate programmes targeting widows and vulnerable women in Malawi.
In her remarks, the GFWE international president Pearl Kupe assured that her organisation will soon introduce various programmes to build the capacity of widows to establish and run small and medium businesses.
Meanwhile, GFWE has presented an award to Mchiela for her role in fighting for the rights and economic empowerment of widowed and vulnerable women in Malawi.
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