Achievements made by the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus
The Malawi Parliamentary Women’s Caucus has endorsed the enactment of laws and policies which prioritise the empowerment and protection of women and young girls:
The Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act of (2015).
The Trafficking in Persons Act of 2015.
The HIV AIDs Act of 2017.
Lobbied for the constitution amendment on the raising of Marriage age of a child from 15 to 18. The amendment aligns the Constitution with the 2015 Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act enacted by the Parliament. It is believed that with the passing of the Act, incidences of early marriages are going to be reduced in the country.
We supported the introduction of a Private Members Bill in the House which was meant to amend the Anatomy Act in order to broaden the offenses of removal and unauthorized possession of human tissue and enhance the penalties for the offenses under the Act.
The Caucus also lobbied with the Department of Reproductive Health and Ministry of Finance for the increase of the budget allocation on Family Planning in Malawi to ensure that the problem of Maternal Mortality is reduced in the country.
The Women’s Caucus embarked on Popularizing and Disseminating the Laws concerning women and children which were passed in Parliament in the constituencies of female MPs. The objective was to create greater awareness throughout their constituencies and the general public, a development that has led to the communities’ learning to uphold the rights of children unlike the way it was in the past.
The Malawi parliamentary Women’s Caucus (MPWC) through the Speakers office took a leading role in championing for the launch of the HeforShe Campaign. The Speaker came up with the commitments which were recognised as a landmark in promoting the gender agenda in the country.
The PWC has also led advocacy efforts within Parliament, to ensure that national budgets are gender responsive, tailored towards addressing the practical and strategic needs and interests of individuals from different social groups regardless of sex, age, class, ethnicity, caste and location.
Challenges of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus
The Women’s Caucus face a number of changes which hinder them to operate and carry out their expected role efficiently some of the constraints are as follows:
There is a very low retention rate for women in political positions, particularly female MPs. While women constitute 52% of the national population they remain grossly underrepresented in Parliament. At the first democratic, multi-party elections in 1993, only 6% of Parliamentary seats were assumed by women. This steadily rose over the subsequent elections, rising to an all-time high of 22% in the 2009 elections. This election was viewed as a transition of hope for the country and there were expectations that the figures would continue to rise. Unfortunately, in the 2014 elections the percentage declined to the present rate of 16.5%. This makes it very difficult for issues such as gender equality, gender-based violence, reproductive rights and female health rights to take priority on the national agenda.
Another challenge for women MPs is the lack of resources to finance political campaigns. Political campaigns are quite costly in Malawi as they require individuals to foot their own registration costs as well as costs to hold rallies and development meetings.
Many NGOs and Development Partners come forward to help female MPs with some of these costs, these efforts are often intensified too close to an election, thereby rendering them less effective. At the same time, these efforts are often not well coordinated, acting at times as a hindrance to the women’s campaign.
Lastly, the Caucus notes that another key challenge to female MPs election and retention is that of low visibility in their constituencies. Female Parliamentarians in other countries such as Kenya and Rwanda work alongside various Development Partners to increase their visibility in their constituencies. This has been done through intensive development projects, such as construction of schools, bridges and health centers. It is very difficult for the Malawian female MPs to emulate this example given the lack of external financial support.
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