Malawi implored fellow United Nations (UN) member states to embrace social protection systems, emphasizing that these systems are effective in empowerment of women and girls to shield them against poverty and gender inequalities.
Kathewera Banda: CSOs must complement government efforts in implementation of social protection measures
Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Cecilia Chazama spoke at the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) held at the UN Headquarters in New York in United States of America from 11 to 22 March 2019.
During the CSW63, delegates attended various meetings focusing on social protection systems and discussed how these are empowering women and girls.
Apart from contributing to the deliberations in the general assembly, Malawi also organized three side events to articulate its various programmes on social protection and their impact on women and girls in the country.
Chazama's message to the UN delegates was clear: Malawi has put in place legislation, policies and strategies that promote, protect and empower women and girls.
She said: "The Government of Malawi is taking the use of social protection instruments in the fight against poverty and gender inequality very seriously. To this end, government has put social protection among its key development strategies in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDSIII)".
Chazama told the UN member states that government formulated the National Social Support Policy which has programmes such as the Malawi Social Cash Transfer (SCTP), Public Works Programme, School Meals, Village Savings and Loans, and microfinance that are empowering women and girls in various ways.
The Government of Malawi also credits the higher retention of girls in schools and reduction of child marriages to these social protection programmes and several others.
Susan Kondowe, Operations Manager for COMSIP Cooperative Union Limited, one of the social programs in Malawi, shared experiences on how COMSIP empowers women and girls economically.
She explained that COMSIP is implementing the Livelihood and Skills Development project under the MNSSP aimed at linking the Public Works Program and Social Cash Transfer beneficiaries to savings and investment groups in order to build resilience and sustainability at household level as support systems for graduation.
Said Kondowe, "COMSIP reaches out to beneficiaries through self-formed groups which graduate into clusters and then cooperatives. Currently we have a total membership of 164,139 of which 116,317 are women, representing 71 percent. A total of MK6.4 billion ($8.6million) has been mobilised and MK5.6billion ($7.5million) is for women."
Through their respective clusters or cooperatives, women and girls are linked to health, education and production insurances and skills development that are critical in the promotion of their households livelihoods, added Kondowe.
At the Planet 50/50: Achieving Voice and Choice through Social Protection, a side event organized by Malawi, SADC Gender Protocol Alliance and Women's Development and Communications Network, Chazama outlined more policies that are ensuring sustainable empowerment of women and girls in Malawi.
"Malawi has a free and compulsory primary education policy that compliments the life skills development subject which has been introduced in schools to empower students in various social aspects such as sexual reproductive health issues.
Government has also introduced a tuition free secondary education policy to increase access and retention of girls in public secondary schools. In addition, adolescent health and nutrition strategies aimed at improving health and nutrition outcomes for the girls are being implemented," she said.
And at the third side event on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls: The Role Of Gender Responsive Public Services and Sustainable Infrastructure, Chazama reiterated that Malawi is committed to ending all forms of violence against women and girls.
"Investment in gender responsive public services and infrastructure is also another key focus area of the Government of Malawi. Since 2001, Malawi has been establishing Victim Support Units in Police Stations and communities at traditional authority level in order to protect women and girls at risk of violence through provision of safe havens to survivors of violence.
Further, Malawi has established One Stop Centres in the country's four referral hospitals, district hospitals and we are now moving to health centres across the country in order to provide comprehensive services to survivors of violence who are mostly women and girls," she said.
Such best practices were the centre of attraction to scores of delegates and many UN member states and civil society organisations across the world, wanted to learn from Malawi.
In her contribution, Emma Kaliya who is Board Chairperson of FEMNET-the African Women's Development and Communication Network, applauded some SADC member states for creating such a conducive legal framework but noted that there is urgent need for adherence to implementation of the instruments such as the gender related laws, among others.
And Maggie Kathewera-Banda of the Women Legal Resources Centre (Wolrec) emphasized that civil society organizations in Malawi must complement government efforts in implementation of social protection measures so that the ultimate beneficiaries-women and girls-enjoy the maximum benefits of the programmes.
According to the UN, social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, are integral to achieving the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
As such, the CSW63 was a platform for sharing Malawi's best practices on social protection systems and how the systems are empowering women and girls.
Chazama led the Malawi delegation and was accompanied by Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Grace Obama Chiumia and other notable figures including Deputy Speaker of the Malawi National Assembly Esther Mcheka-Chilenje.
The final outcome of the CSW is known as Agreed Conclusions, a document which guides UN member states on the implementation of gender equality and women empowerment interventions in the subsequent years.