Women’s manifesto takes duty bearers to task

The Women’s Manifesto was launched on Thursday by women and gender players with pertinent issues that have been neglected by duty-bearers for long time.

The manifesto carries priority areas affecting women such as education, health, agriculture as well governance and leadership.

Women’s health must be prioitised; expectant women await to be served at a health centre

It also tackles women’s access to justice, social, religious and cultural issues; women’s access to land, water and natural resources, among other aspects.

The manifesto’s need, which arose as a response to inadequate action by government and other duty-bearers to comprehensively address concerns affecting women in all sectors of the Malawian society, takes into account the historical disadvantage that Malawian women have suffered in accessing meaningful political, social and economic development.

It demands for accountability from duty-bearers and is a basis for women to demand action where office bearers are complacent in their duties

State and non-State actors, it contends, have carried out programmes that have not supported women, though in other cases labelled as such.

Its key concerns and demands are located within the human rights and women rights context espoused in the laws of Malawi and in international and regional agreements that Malawi is a signatory to.

The Malawi Constitution calls for equal treatment, dignity and respect for all persons, but women and girls’ equal right to education though only being regarded as equal in the present times, has remained insignificant to most players.

Due to lack of education, women have been forced to live in impoverished conditions, lacking the most basic sources of income and has hindered their social and economic empowerment.

The women, through the manifesto, demand quality educational infrastructure with sanitary facilities for girls, and that schools be built near, so that girls’ education is not affected and for increased education budgetary allocation.

Health, a priority area for women, has also been marred with irregularities ranging from understaffed clinics, to lack of care for expectant women and shortage of drugs, with other areas having to completely do without clinics—a burden that has always been on women’s shoulders.

The health sector, as the manifesto raises, has been crippled due to inadequate financing making it under -resourced as it lacks technologies and critical equipment.

Apart from increased financing, women demand improved maternal health care, an increase in trained personnel, especially in women-friendly services and provision of comprehensive health services.

Women have been trapped in smaller local markets though they account for 70 percent of the labour force in agriculture.

They have been neglected in agriculture mechanisation; in effective ways of cultivation, which has become a grim facet divergent to visions of increased production, resilient agriculture and improved lives.

The  manifesto denounces imbalances of patronage politics and cultural beliefs that entrench women’s public participation.

Targeting both government and non-governamental bodies, including donors, traditional leaders, men and women, the manifesto, not only demands equality, but also influence, empowerment and calls for respect, for women’s dignity.

It is one of a kind as for the first time through this manifesto, women have pledged to work as one and push for change across all frontiers.

The manifesto is informed by literature on women’s issues in Malawi, consultations of rural and peri-urban women, online surveys and not least issues that emerged during the women’s assembly. n

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