A survey by the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Uganda-based Africa Freedom of Information Centre (Afic) has revealed that less than one percent of Malawian women do business with government.
The survey, which was conducted in 2019 and included one-on-one interviews and focus group discussions with over 80 indigenous women entrepreneurs drawn from Lilongwe’s formal and informal sectors, revealed that public contracting in Malawi is overwhelmingly male-dominated.
The study says female contractors perceived that there was widespread discrimination on the basis of gender during the bidding process, suggesting that focus had been put on companies owned by men.
Findings of the survey further revealed that female contractors often faced sexual harassment, where individuals in positions of power demanded sexual favours as bribes to get contracts.
According to CHRR, World Bank conducted a similar study of the Road Sector in 2019 where female contractors indicated that the capital requirements for registering as a contractor were very high and prohibitive to women.
CHRR Executive Director, Michael Kiiyatsa and Afic Executive Director Gilbert Sendugwa said in a statement that it is outrageous that less than one percent of government contracts go to women.
They say women have as much right to do business with the government as their male counterparts.
Kaiyatsa and Sendugwa say Section 20(1) of the Constitution of Malawi prohibits discrimination of persons in any form, saying that all persons are, under any law, guaranteed equal and effective protection against discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status or condition.
They add that Section 4(1) of the Gender Equality Act prohibits sex discrimination.
The two institutions have since urged government and all key stakeholders to consider putting in place deliberate efforts to increase women’s representation and participation in public contracting.
Gender Minister Patricia Kaliyati said the Tonse Administration remains committed to see more women taking part in big businesses.
Kaliati said government recognises the need to ensure that women are playing a significant role in the development of the country by, among other things, sharing the national cake with their male counterparts.