Transport sector hampering Malawi women’s access to socio-economic services in Machinga and Mangochi

Access to public social services is vital to the development of a country and, in a democratic context like Malawi, it is more critical since they are part of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

For instance, Section 30 of the Malawi Constitution provides for the right to development whereas Sections 25 and 29 provide for the right to education and economic activity and Section 30 (2) highlights the right to food, health and housing as a means to achieving the right to development.

This is also underscored in the Malawi Growth Development Strategy (MDGS) designed to among other things reduce poverty through sustainable growth and infrastructure development. But when Malawi is proudly celebrating 49 years of Independence, has she achieved her commitment to several global agreements and declarations including Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and internationally agreed development goals?

Good road infrastructure is the key to the development of a country. This ensures that people have access to social services and as for women, poor roads is one of the challenges which impact on them in terms of rural travel and transport patterns. Women access to social services like health facilities and public markets, among others is dependent on the condition or state of the roads.

Yoneco director MacBein Mkandawire stressing a point
Yoneco director MacBein Mkandawire stressing a point
Shaibu Kaliati: Involve us in development agendas
Shaibu Kaliati: Involve us in development agendas

During a stakeholders’ meeting with Machinga and Mangochi Members of Parliament (MPs), government officials from health, district council, agriculture and education, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which was held in Mangochi, it transpired that women and girls are at a disadvantage because the roads in most of the Traditional Authorities (T/As) are very poor.

The meeting was organized by Youth Net and Counseling (Yoneco) aimed at finding solutions to the challenges women and girls face and also share the findings of the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (Gewe) project in both Machinga and Mangochi districts.

It was revealed that the bad conditions are exacerbated by the weather conditions, for instance, during the rainy season; roads are impassable which renders communities incapacitated in accessing various social services such as health facilities, markets, schools and others. Contributors during the meeting observed that availability of bridges and culverts are in bad condition as some were washed away with rains and have not been maintained.

Machinga Central MP Shaibu Kaliati said there has to be proper coordination of development programmes from all the stakeholders in the district in order to gain tangible development.

“We normally work in isolation; hence lack of development in crucial areas in Machinga district. This is also enhanced by the fear factor that most government officials have in working with MPs particularly when one is from the opposition. They fear for their jobs as they may be transferred to another area just because they have been seen working with an opposition MP,” he said.

He also suggested that the pre-budget consultations that happens before the Budget meeting of Parliament need to involve everybody arguing, it becomes difficult to make alterations once the national assembly is in session.

“Most of us just see that the figures have already been provided and making matters worse, we receive the budget statement with a few days to deliberations in the august house,” said Kaliati.

Yoneco executive director MacBein Mkandawire said in an interview that unless the public health delivery system is improved there will be no significant achievement of the Safe Motherhood Initiative being propagated by government.

“As we have heard, Machinga has one ambulance that serves about 15 health centres. In addition, health workers states that the ambulance has been having problems of inadequate fuel provision or allocation which is not a good development.

“The transport sector needs to conduct social assessment and gender analysis so as to address the transport needs of women and ensure to correct the stereotyping of women,” said Mkandawire.

All in all, the stakeholders recommended that government should increase the budgetary allocation towards upgrading and rehabilitation of rural feeder roads and bridges so as to improve women and girls access to social services.

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