Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Esmie Kainja says Malawi is far from achieving gender equity and inequality.
Speaking in Lilongwe when she presided over the Bi-annual Stakeholders Meeting and Implementation on Gender Equality Act, implementation and monitoring plan for 2016-2020, she said women still lag behind in all sectors of society.
Said Kainja: “Statistics show that women lag behind in all sectors of society. For example, Parliament has 16 percent women, local councils 11 percent, public sector 24 percent and the representation in the private sector is worse.”
Some of the underlining causes include persistent stereotype attitudes and harmful cultural practices in the society, limited service providers at all levels for effective attainment of gender equality and women empowerment, and also limited dissemination of the Act at all levels.
In 2013 government enacted the Gender Equality Act as one way of addressing gender inequalities as obstacles to development and poverty reduction by 2020.
But four years down the line, the country is moving at a slow pace in as far as the implementation of the Act is concerned.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) chairperson Justin Dzonzi said the country needs to pull up its socks on achievement of equity.
He noted that despite the Act being in place, women are still being exploited in various aspects.
Dzonzi said there is need to address and remove preconceived notions that interfere with the ability to prescribe an objective assessment of causes and effects of gender discrimination and inequality.
He said: “While it is easy to single out harmful cultural practices as the bedrock of gender discrimination and inequality, we must remain vigilant to some subtle social practices which entrench commoditisation of women.”
Dzonzi said there is a lot of sexual exploitation of women in the beauty pageant, advertising, music and adult sex industries.
“Putting a lascivious nude picture of a beautiful girl next to chocolate, a cigarette or perfume subconsciously equates the utility benefit of the product to sexual satisfaction, a practice that entrenches a woman’s sexual appeal to men reduces her to a commodity which men may choose at will and this undermines the humanity and dignity of women,” he said.