Public officers in some district councils are demanding sex from women in exchange of casual labour offered under government’s cash transfer initiative—Public Works Programme (PWP)—a Kalondolondo report has claimed.
The heart-rending revelations were discovered during last year’s assessment of the PWP in Ntchisi and Mwanza.
Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare and Ministry of Labour and Manpower Development have since said they will investigate the issue and warned of stern action against officials involved in such malpractices.
While Principal Secretary for Gender Mary Shawa in an interview described the act as “unacceptable, unethical and cruel”, Labour Minister Henry Mussa said the act was not only immoral but also criminal.
They both vowed, separately, to trace the perpetrators of “this shameful act” and make them answerable.
Kalondolondo (community-based monitoring) Project programmes manager Jephter Mwanza regretted the development in an interview on Thursday.
The government-funded PWP, financed by the Local Development Fund (LDF), is an income generating activity where rural citizens work and get paid K300 per day to enable them to buy farm inputs and other necessities.
Mwanza said: “In one worst case in Ntchisi, a woman was actually impregnated [by a foreman]. A colleague [working on the programme] has just confirmed that to me.”
He said the entry point for the abuse, according to their findings, is during registration where foremen demand sexual favours from girls and women if they wanted to be registered for the piecework.
Mwanza said other types of abuse on women included situations where foremen asked women to cook for them, carry firewood and till their personal gardens.
But he blamed law enforcers who did not take any action on ghost workers, who in some meetings confessed of pocketing something for work they never did.
Mwanza said they presented the findings to district councils for action, but he blamed the councils for not acting with speed or for the tendency to ignore such issues altogether.
But Ntchisi district commissioner Malango Botomani said in an interview yesterday that the assessment report was never brought to his attention.
A report filed by a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), Mponela Aids Information and Counselling Centre (Maicc) in Dowa for Kalondolondo, has shown that some foremen managing PWP abused women.
The report by Maicc also indicates some officials managing the PWP were corrupt and harsh.
As a result of such conducts, the report reveals that some foremen were giving some people double portions to work on as opposed to the recommended 10 metres.
Shawa appealed to women to always report such malpractice to relevant authorities, including her ministry, warning there are sexually transmitted infections and the piecework women look for is not worth a life.
She appealed to officials that manage PWP to give the jobs on merit and regardless of gender.
Mussa, the Labour Minister, said the behaviour was not only unethical, but also criminal, advising women that have experienced this to immediately report to any nearest police station or his office for action.
He said the project was designed to uplift the lives of the underprivileged, hence it was unthinkable that some officials were taking advantage of desperate women that register for piecework.