Malawi

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Contact for Malawi

Pansi Katenga-Malawi | Christian Aid | PKatenga@christian-aid.org

 

Preamble
We the delegates, representing various churches and Christian faith based organisations from the three Christian mother bodies, namely Evangelical Association of Malawi, Malawi Council of Churches and Episcopal Conference of Malawi, gathered in Lilongwe from 18th to 19th April 2018. The aim of the meeting was to launch the Side By Side Malawi Chapter and to deliberate on a shared vision, commitment and plan of action for establishing a national faith movement for gender justice, with support from Christian Aid.
The meeting, whose theme was “ Gender Justice –working side by side with faith leaders, was organised with the view of promoting greater participation of the churches in the fight for gender justice particularly for women and vulnerable children and girls.

 

We Acknowledge
On-going efforts by the government of Malawi, civil society and faith actors in the country to promote gender justice;
We Recognise the centrality of faith institutions in addressing gender injustice which has hindered human, social, political, economic and spiritual development, not just for women and girls, but for men and boys as well;
We Note, with great concern that gender inequality remains a challenge for faith institutions and communities across the Africa, Malawi included:
We Commit to journeying with other faith leaders and institutions in search of equality and dignity for all, promoting positive gender values and working together to truly become inclusive societies of hope, reconciliation, and peace and healing. The faith community values gender justice and is convinced that this can enhance progress with greater harmony and effectiveness across a range of community development efforts.

 

Observations
The delegates observed the following:-
• That gender injustice still exists in Malawi. Women and children, in particular the girl child, continue to experience injustices in various forms and magnitudes.
• That the church can do better to address these gender injustices in our nation.
• That the church is probably the first institution that those experiencing gender injustice turn to. According to the recent 2017 Afro barometer report, the church in Malawi is one of the most trusted institution people turn to for solace and hope.
• That each of the mother bodies have developed gender policies to guide implementations. However these policies have not been widely disseminated to the masses in our constituency.
Acknowledging from our discussions that the church:
• has done a lot to promote social, economic and political justice, but is not doing enough to promote gender justice;
• has an important role in addressing gender based violence and other forms of inequality and deeply entrenched harmful cultural norms and practices;
• has a varied interpretation of scripture regarding gender justice issues;
• has poor coordination of her initiatives in addressing gender justice issues; and,
• Have internal unresolved gender issues which should be addressed.

 

Concerned by the following barriers to faith actors on Gender Justice:
• Entrenched cultural norms, behaviours and attitudes that perpetuate gender injustice including: high rates of gender based violence, such as rape and physical violence, which reinforce women’s low social status and erode their confidence in participating and leading;
• Unethical use of religion which exploits the vulnerability of women and girls; men and boys;
• Selective interpretation of scripture to justify cultural practices and dominant social norms that advantage men over women;
• Low levels of education among women, coupled with low confidence levels and a high burden of domestic responsibility hindering participation in church activities; and,
• High rates of divorce

 

Key Focus Areas
1. Popularisation and simplification of gender related laws and policies :Member resolved to focus their efforts to the dissemination and advocate for user friendly versions of the gender policies and laws.
2. Gender Based Violence: Comprehensively address gender issues with a greater male involvement and advocate for access to justice by women and girls as a preventative and mitigating strategy
3. Gender and Theology: Member agreed to work towards a common theological school thought on gender related matters building on the work the three mother bodies have done that led to development of the “Gender and Theology” guide.

 

Commitments from the Side by Side Malawi Conference
Members unanimously agreed to establish and the Side by Side faith movement as a vehicle for the implementation of gender justice interventions. We therefore commit to:

Strategic alliance: Faith leaders should work very closely with other like-minded groups of influence like the government, NGO’s or civil society groups, networks specialised in gender justice.

Child Protection: Members resolved to champion child protection issues and eradication of early marriages, gender based violence and women inclusion in decision making position in the society, community, church, government structures and many other work spaces as well as popularization and dissemination of gender related laws.

Women empowerment: Promotion of women in leadership was identified as a key factor in addressing gender inequalities. The key entry point is the 50—50 campaign and economic empowerment.

Dissemination and implementation of the gender policies: Members agreed to actively be engaged in the dissemination of gender policies to our constituencies and ensure implementation

Education: Focus on education for Malawian girls and Women as a weapon to fight gender injustice in our society. Members therefore resolved to advocate for the implementation of policies that promote education for all with emphasis on the girl child.

Family Strengthening/Enrichment: Members resolved to strengthen the family unit with focus on positive parenting and marriage counselling

Harmonisation of gender related laws and policies: The members resolved to advocate for the re-alignment and harmonisation of gender related laws and policies; and messages on gender justice

Harmful cultural and religious practices: The delegates committed themselves to addressing the cultural practices and beliefs that promote gender injustice

 

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