Malawi government has warned all stakeholders against throwing spanners in the works of the Social Cash Transfer Programme, fearing that such a development would derail the concept which aims at empowering poor people economically.
Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati, sounded the warning last week after visiting beneficiaries of the Social Cash Transfer Programme at Mkweta and Changali clusters in Balaka and Mangochi respectively.
She warned that government would sternly deal with any official caught either exploiting beneficiaries or abusing Social Cash Transfer resources, saying the malpractice would not only undermine government’s efforts to improve people’s lives but would also increase their vulnerability.
“Let me take the opportunity of this gathering to advise all the beneficiaries to report any misconduct by officials mandated to implement the programme at district level. No one should take advantage of the plight of you the poor to coax anyone, especially women and girls, into a sexual relationship,” Kaliati cautioned.
She disclosed that government will soon change the mode of disbursement for the cash transfers to electronic payment to reduce cases of abuse and also as one way of increasing access of commercial banking services to rural areas.
“We would like to switch on to e-payment in all the participating districts. What this will entail is that the bank involved in any particular district will also be required to provide soft loans to women beneficiaries as an economic empowerment arrangement,” Kaliati added.
The minister observed that the loans would also go a long way in ensuring sustainability of the initiative where beneficiaries would be required to graduate from the scheme, thereby creating room for new registrants.
On this note, Kaliati urged parents and guardians to encourage their wards to work hard in school, noting that the benefits of education to national development could not be overemphasised.
“All the socio-cultural challenges that we are currently grappling with would no longer be an issue if we had literate citizens. We would not be talking of gender-based violence, human trafficking and early marriages if most people in the country were educated,” she lamented.
However, Kaliati commended most beneficiaries for being prudent in the management of resources from the cash transfers.
She particularly thanked donor agencies like KfW of Germany and Irish Aid for supporting government in the scheme.
Other donor agencies supporting the programme, which is in 19 districts of the country, include the European Union, the United Nations Children Fund, the Local Development Fund and the Malawi government.
Balaka District Commissioner, Rodrick Mateauma, said the district has embraced the Social Cash Transfer Programme, noting that it has contributed to the improvement of incomes of most households in the district.
“The programme has also contributed to increase in school enrolment and attendance of children in target group households. It also has improved health, nutrition, protection and well being of vulnerable children,” Mateauma said.
The Social Cash Transfer scheme, whose objective is to contribute to national efforts to reduce poverty and hunger among poor and labour-constrained households targets the elderly, people with disabilities and child and female-headed households among other groups.
The cash transfer levels range from K1,700 for an individual household to K3,700 for a household with five members with school-going members getting some bonuses of K500 and K1000 for primary and secondary school wards respectively.—By Arnold Namanja, Mana.
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