In Malawi, hardly a week goes by without a report of a female body being the locus of violence, a report of a girl molested, or a woman abused. As European Union (EU), we are convinced that it is under our core values to speak against these abuses.
Violence against women and girls (Vawg) undermines the fundamental rights and core values of our Union. The EU believes in dignity, access to justice and gender equality. Unfortunately, there is still widespread violence against women and girls globally—and this has to stop.
This is why we make targeted investments in women and girls as a key to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment. This is crucial for the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the reason the EU decided to make an unprecedented investment of 500 million Euros globally into an initiative like Spotlight, from which Malawi along with seven other African countries is benefitting.
Spotlight is the flagship EU-funded initiative on gender and envisages a multi-sectoral strategy that addresses structural issues on Vawg and harmful practices, with linkages to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and HIV and Aids.
Future EU development assistance will depend on the respect for human rights, including women and girls’ rights, which we in accordance with our values and beliefs will continue to support.
Gender equality is key for peace, security, economic prosperity and sustainable development.
That is why working on all levels to promote and safeguard progress on gender equality is a political priority and objective for the EU.
The focus on violence against women and girls is particular relevant in the context of the pandemic.
In Malawi, as in many other countries, the pandemic has exacerbated existing gender inequalities across different areas: education, vocational training, health, security and safety, sexual and reproductive health and rights and economic opportunities.
In addition, the Covid-19 lockdowns have often led to an increase in gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence. At the same time, a significant part of the care burden has fallen on women and girls.
Workers in the informal economy and in low-skilled jobs (most of whom are women), migrants, and minorities, have been more at risk and face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
Moreover, school closures have exposed girls to an increased risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy, child labour and forced marriage.
Now is the time to do more.
This challenge requires a global response, and we wish for our children and grandchildren to grow up in a post-pandemic world where equal opportunities are a reality.
Therefore, the need to address the root causes of gender inequality and discrimination in order to achieve sustainable change is acute.
In Malawi, through our Justice and Accountability Programme, Chilungamo, the EU supports prosecution of gender-based violence cases and continues to build capacity for victim support units.
We know that education is key to stop violence against women and girls and it is through well-functioning schools that girls are empowered and able to know their rights.
That is why the EU is investing massively to support the education sector in Malawi.
In 2020, the EU provided about 1 900 bursaries to vulnerable secondary school girls and through the Skills and Technical Education Programme (Step), EU provided bursaries to 712 vulnerable young girls and facilitated their transition to the world of work.
Similarly, EU has been sponsoring the construction of girls’ hostels to minimise the risks for them becoming victims of violence and increasing the likelihood for girls to complete secondary education.
On economic empowerment, one of the achievements of spotlight has been training women victims of violence and providing them with access to capital investment.
A woman who is self-reliant and financially independent will be in a better position to say no to violence and resist any form of abuse.
Only by working together and each taking a stance can we make a difference for the girls and women of Malawi. n