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Report exposes gender gaps

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A report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has brought to light some serious gender disparities in Malawi.

The 2016 African Human Development Report (AfHDR), launched in Lilongwe on Friday, among other things, has revealed that only three percent of Malawian women are registered commercial land owners, yet they constitute 70 percent of the total workforce.

The report titled: “Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa,” says in terms of leadership in the public and private sectors, only 14 percent of Malawian firms had women at top management level in 2014 and only 17 percent of members of Parliament are female, below the 30 percent target set by the Beijing Platform for Action.

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In addition, the report said about 93 percent of women’s total labour in Malawi is unpaid and 46 percent of girls marry before the age of 18, thereby limiting their lifelong opportunities.

Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Jean Kalilani, launched the report alongside the National Action Plan and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence which is being commemorated under the theme: ‘From peace in home to peace in the community: make education safe for all’.

UNDP Resident Representative in Malawi, Mia Seppo, said the findings of the report need to trigger policy debate and discussion on what further steps are needed to ensure that gender equality is more fully integrated into Malawi’s national agenda and ongoing policy dialogue.

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According to UNDP, gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $95 billion a year, peaking at $105 billion in 2014– or six percent of the region’s GDP – jeopardising the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth.

The AfHDR notes that an important factor challenging women’s health in Africa is the high rate of violence they face.

Gender-based violence, according to UNDP, is a widespread problem and nearly one out of every two African women has experienced some kind of sexual or physical violence during their lifetimes.

The report likens this high rate of violence to a completely preventable and curable disease currently burdening healthcare systems and preventing women and girls from enjoying full health and a fulfilling life.

The 2016 AfHDR reviews on-going efforts by African governments to accelerate the pace of assuring women’s empowerment through all spheres of society—in the home and community, workplace, and in political participation and leadership.

In a statement, UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark, said: “It’s not a choice but an imperative: failing to address gender inequalities and discrimination against women will make it impossible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

UNDP Africa Director, Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, said unleashing the creative energy of women, by nurturing their aspirations, promoting their access to opportunities and resources and giving them a chance to become active citizens will contribute to making Africa the 21st century’s next frontier for inclusive growth.

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