Catherine Russell, United States of America (USA) ambassador at large on global women’s issues, has commended Malawi for enacting critical laws that addresses challenges women and girls face in society.
But Russell has asked the country to do more on implementation.
Malawi has a bad track record on gender developments such as education of girls and women empowerment, but it has comprehensive legislation such as Gender Equality Act, Child Justice and Protection Act, Marriage Act and Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.
Russell said legislation was a critical and necessary first step, but it was not enough as it merely guides people on the government’s priorities.
She said: “Commend countries that get legislation done but it’s the first of many steps that need to be done, makes a huge difference, keep at it.
“Everybody has to work on implementation, even in the US we have strong domestic violence legislation but we are still working on that, it is time consuming and expensive.
“You have to train judges and prosecutors and health care professionals, make sure there are adequate shelters.”
Russell said the US recognises that Malawi faces a lot of challenges in health and education but girls faced a particular set of challenges which could only be addressed if society values girls and women and believes they are working on investments in education and health.
She said this was why the US has come up with programmes like Aspire and Let Girls Learn championed by the First Lady Michelle Obama, which were meant to help countries like Malawi overcome these challenges by investing in girls education.
She added that while the US works on a number of issues, her government believes that when women have economic independence it would result in higher rates of education.
But Russell said from her audience with the First Lady Gertrude Mutharika, there was strong political will to improve the standard of living for women and girls.
Apart from meeting government officials and female members of Parliament, Russell was due to engage civil society, traditional leaders such as Senior Chief Kachindamoto who has gained popularity for fighting early marriages as well as hearing from Malawian girls themselves.
The US Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, headed by Russell, seeks to ensure that women’s issues are fully integrated in the formulation and conduct of US foreign policy