Lack of access to finance and ‘unfavorable customary laws’ have been singled out among major factors affecting women’s contribution to economic development in Malawi and other countries in the region.
A recent analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) titled Fiscal Policies for Women’s Economic Empowerment shows that globally, female workforce participation declined to 20 percent in 2018 from 27 percent in 1990.
It further indicates that average female workforce participation rate across countries is still lower than the male rate.
This has been largely attributed to gender gaps in wages and access to opportunities, such as education that stubbornly persist.
“Our new study finds that fiscal policy choices that address gender equality such as investing in education or infrastructure, developing better sanitation facilities, implementing individual-based tax regimes, and offering parental leave, create more economic opportunities for women, increase growth, and reduce poverty and inequality,” reads part of the report.
Commenting on the trend in the country, spokesperson for the Ministry of Gender, Childre, Disability and Social Welfare, Lucy Bandazi, conceded that women’s contribution to economic development is low.
She indicated that women contribute more towards the agriculture sector.
“Women face a lot of challenges. Most of the working women are still concentrated into certain types of employment due to a complex mix of factors including unpaid care work, poor educational background, discrimination, social norms and personal preferences,” Bandazi said.
In a response to an emailed questionnaire, National Association of Business Women Executive Director, who is also Chairperson of the Non-Governmental Organisations Gender Coordination Network, Barbara Banda, said gender dynamics have restricted participation of women and girls in small scale businesses.
She cited micro finance institutions’ failure to offer loans for capital intensive businesses.
“Most women and girls today are in cross border trade but they are faced with lack of trade facilitation which makes trading along the border lengthy and costly.
“Limited access to finance in the face of high tariffs, which restricts traders to informal economies and low financial literacy among women traders affects the sustainability and growth of their investments,” Banda said.