Malawi First Lady calls for promotion of girl child in COMESA Region
Malawi First Lady Dr. Getrude Mutharika

Malawi First Lady Dr. Getrude Mutharika

Lilongwe, April 29, 2016: Malawi First Lady Madam Gertrude Mutharika in March last year said the sustainable empowerment of women will only be meaningfully achieved if girl child education is significantly promoted in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states.
Madam Mutharika made the remarks when she delivered a statement at the First Ladies Round Table Meeting under the theme “Economic Empowerment of Women: Key to Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development” in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the sidelines of the African Union Summit.
She said that Malawi as member of the COMESA community, accepted to host the Federation of National Association of Women in Business in Eastern and Southern Africa (FEMCOM). She said Malawi looks at FEMCOM as a vehicle for improving the economic status of our people, especially women, who comprise the larger part of the population.
She said COMESA should endeavour to create a world where every little girl from every corner of this region can fulfill their potential without impediment.
Madam Mutharika said COMESA member states should make sure that women’s confidence ‘roars from the roof tops, their cups run over with self-assurance, that a woman can be a top surgeon, or indeed a leader in any field that she might choose.’
“If we think of life as a long race, it is education that provides the training, the nourishment, and the support. Without good quality education, you walk up to the starting line with a severe disadvantage.” She said.
She said it is against this background that there is a great need to focus a lot of resources in supporting girl child education because if the girl child is educated, COMESA member states will be creating a future generation of economically empowered women.
Madame Mutharika said the door of labour should be open to let women flourish and achieve their true potential in the job market, adding that it is sad to note that too many women are unaccounted for, underutilized, and over-exploited.
“It is a moral imperative, but it is also an economic imperative. The evidence is plain—when women contribute more, the economy does better. The door of leadership should be open letting women rise to the top of their innate abilities and talents. We all know the problem—across all fields of work, the higher you climb, the fewer women you see. The evidence is painfully obvious,” she said.
On women economic empowerment, Madam Mutharika shared the specific efforts that Malawi is doing.
For instance, she said Malawi has a whole department of Gender Affairs, whose mandate is to formulate, coordinate and implement issues of gender equality and women empowerment programmes.
She gave an example of two important programmes currently being run by the Department, which include the Social Cash Transfer, and the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. The Malawi government is implementing the Social Cash Transfer programme to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, and Malawi has a National Commission on Women in Development, whose main agenda is to integrate women in national development, including a programme on Girls Attainment in Basic Literacy and Education.
Madame Mutharika also said there is a need to wedge open the door to the contribution of women—their learning, their labor, and their leadership.
“Let the door of learning open the over-riding importance of women’s education, the foundation upon which everything else must be built. Let me state that we have made great strides towards gender equality,” she said.
She also said the significance of this year’s theme cannot be overemphasized because Women comprise the larger proportion of the world population, and research has revealed that excluding them from any development intervention yields adverse effects on the growth of the economy.
She said It is unfortunate that progress in economic empowerment of women has remained slow across the COMESA region. She added that another concern is that women continue to participate poorly in entrepreneurial activities and dominate in the informal sector including informal cross border trade for their livelihood and sustenance.  She gave an example of poor access to credit, land, skills, knowledge and information, which worsen their participation in any meaningful economic activities.
Madam Mutharika called on all players to significantly and thoroughly address issues of poverty and vulnerability of women in the COMESA region by improving access of women to economic resources such as credit, enhance women’s access to and ownership of land, property; and also enhance women’s capacity development.  She said the region needs to devise mechanisms aimed at encouraging women to pursue opportunities in sectors where they are still severely under represented.

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