BRIDGE Report 23: Women and Development in Malawi

Author: S. Baden, C. Green
Publisher: Institute of Development Studies UK
Publication Date: May 1994
To what extent are gender considerations incorporated into development initiatives in Malawi' What are the key issues affecting women's legal and political status as well as their roles within the economy and the family' This report offers a general overview of the status of women in Malawi and points to the strong bias of existing literature towards rural areas and the southern region. Moreover, existing research tends to lack or over-simplify gender analysis. It argues that government agencies and donor organisations must adopt policies to overcome current gender inequities, particularly in essential areas of access to land and credit, social services, equal opportunity in employment, and political participation.

Existing evidence highlights the following indicators of gender inequality that must be addressed by and incorporated into government and donor development strategies: . Existing research is strongly biased towards rural and southern Malawi women, and reduces gender concerns to a comparison of male and female-headed households. Little research exists on urban women and women who live in the central and northern regions. . Women's economic security is declining, partly because female-headed households are becoming more common, women lack access to formal sector employment. . Women work more hours than men in both subsistence and cash crop farming systems. Despite this, the promotion of certain cash crops traditionally produced by men (such as tobacco) may limit women's control over farm proceeds and household resources. . Significant gender gaps in education exist, particularly at higher levels, which reduces female employability. Parents perception of the lower value of a daughter, family work commitments and poor quality of educational provision particularly hinder teenage girls' education. . High maternal mortality rates result from poor access to health facilities in rural areas, undernourishment during pregnancy, and women's lack of family planning decision- making power. . HIV/AIDS is a serious health issue yet awareness is limited, and women are more likely to receive information from indirect sources than men. . Domestic responsibilities such as fetching water and firewood place significant demands on women's time that limit their relative potential to allocate time for earning income. . Women lack access to land and credit, both critical inputs to farming or off-farm small-scale income-generation enterprises. . Despite the government stating its commitment to integrate women's concerns into development, women still lack political representation in politics and there has been a lack of a specific policy to address this. Given these above, the following interventions are appropriate: . Carry out further gender-related research, focusing on urban, central and northern regions. . Increase women's control over household income and access to credit, by targeting women specifically, tailoring lending procedures according to their need, and training credit agents in gender awareness. . Direct attention to gender issues in decision-making in family planning programmes, increase rural face-to-face HIV/AIDS awareness raising, extend primary health care coverage, and support skill development of traditional birth attendants who are accessible to communities. . Promote women's involvement in national and local level politics through training of women in political procedures, sensitising political bodies to women's participation, and promoting positive images of women candidates. . Donors invest in labour- saving technologies as well as the increased provision of basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity. . Remove barriers to women's employment, such as wage discrimination and different education requirements, through enactment and enforcement of anti- discriminatory legislation. . Improve the overall quality of education, and introduce policies to encourage girls to stay in school, such as scholarships, recruitment of more female teachers, education of parents regarding benefits of female education, and gender training for teachers.