First Lady Madam Monica Chakwera has launched Unifying campaign, which is aimed at closing the gender gap in education, health and economic empowerment in Malawi.
The campaign will run up until September 2024 under the theme:”#We are Equal: closing the gap in Education, Health and economic Empowerment#”.
Speaking during the launch of the campaign at Dowa Community Ground on Monday, Madam Chakwera said the beginning of the campaign is a significant journey needs to walk together to bridge the gender gap between girls, boys, women and men.
” Malawi can benefit from the outcome of this campaign by working together to ensure equal education, health care and economic empowerment opportunities,” she emphasized.
Madam Chakwera lamented the alarming educational statistics in the country intertwined with poor health and Economic outcomes.
According to her, school enrolment in public secondary schools remains low at 15 per cent (387,569 students only in 2022), with girls accounting for only 34 per cent (131,773 students).
She said the major contributing factors being family responsibilities, lack of school fees, teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
Madam Chakwera said failure to protect girls and keeping them in school has brought devastating consequences and impedes the development of Malawi, adding that when girls are not in school they are either married, pregnant or living in abusive marriages.
It is heartbreaking to know that Malawi is among the topmost countries with highest number of child marriages in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region with Mozambique topping the list, she said.
Madam Chakwera further said the consequences of child marriages are dire including preventable deaths in childbirth, high rates of HIV/Aids among adolescents, significant levels of gender-based violence among others.
“We are slowly killing our girls and the future of Malawi as we fail to keep them in school and protect them from child marriages, gender based violence and teenage pregnancies,” she said.
Madam Chakwera therefore urged chiefs, stakeholders, politicians, parents and individuals to commit themselves by taking bold actions to ensure that girls get equal education opportunities and have better health and economic empowerment outcomes.
Chairperson for Unifying campaign in Malawi, Dr Owen Chikhwaza the country is not doing well in the three pillars of education, health and economic empowerment.
“If this trajectory continues, we are actually heading towards destroying the country,” saying this campaign will help as there are objectives to sensitize leaders, role modelling and labs to train girls, provision of scholarships,” he said.
Family Health Services (FHS) Deputy Executive Director, Chiwawa Nkhoma said the campaign is very important as it brings awareness to the communities in bridging the gender gap.
“There are a lot of gender differences in opportunities between men, women, girls and boys which have an impact especially on girls and women,” she said.
The Unifying campaign is a platform for advocacy, policy influence and implementation to close the gender disparities across countries. It was launched by first ladies in Africa under Organization of African First Ladies in Development (OAFLAD) in June, 2023 in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).