The Minister for Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Dr. Jean Kalilani has called upon commonwealth leaders to deliberately put in place legal instruments which will promote gender parity on the care of persons affected with polio.
Kalilani said this at a panel discussion organized by Global Citizen to commemorate Commonwealth Day and highlight the role of the Commonwealth to achieve sustainable development.
The event was held on the sidelines of the CSW 61 in New York and the Minister represented President Peter Mutharika, who was invited to the event to share the landmark review of the Malawi Constitution that changed the age from 16 to 18 and thereby ending child marriage in Malawi. The Constitutional review was magnanimous in that the vote to change the Constitution had a 100 percent lawmakers voting for gen change.
Kalilani, who is the leader of Malawi CSW61 delegation, said Polio comes at different stages of a human life, as long as the infected person was not immunised at the right time.
“The unfortunate part is that polio affects young children and at other times it affects adults. Regardless of whoever is affected, women bear the burden of care for the affected person and if the affected person is a girl child, she is discriminated,” she said.
Sadly, there are also numerous cases of girls being sexually exploited and abused. The minister further said that care work limits the women’s ability to contribute to the economic empowerment of their families, communities and the nation.
Kalilani said that to mitigate the impact of the effects of polio on caregivers, the Government of Malawi has intensified immunisation and the coverage is above 90% virtually rendering polio almost eliminated.
She however, said that there are some individuals who became polio victims and require special attention and support to enable them to be productive citizens.
According to the minister, Malawi has gone a step further to harmonise the legislation on the age of marriage by amending the Constitution to be in line with the Child Care Protection and Justice Act, Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which defines a child as anybody below the age of 18 years.
“The harmonisation of the age of a child, gives Malawi a rallying point for intensified vaccinations to reach 100% of all children in Malawi. And intensified awareness campaign during the review process of the Constitution, assisted Malawi to enact the reviewed amendment with acclamation,” Kalilani added.
She further said that Malawi is equally committed to achieve the 90:90:90 target on ending AIDS by 2020 and ensure that the 50:50 gender parity is achieved by 2030.
The minister invites the global community to support Malawi’s efforts to implement and popularise the laws, while ensuring that gender parity is achieved and polio is eradicated.
During the panel discussion, which aimed at discussing gender equality and polio eradication through women empowerment, Ellen Chilemba, who is a Youth Advocate for Malawi and Founder of Tiwale Youth Organization in Lilongwe also highlighted the work her organization is doing in women empowerment.
She indicated that Tiwale has 150 young women members who are being trained in entrepreneurship, and that 40 of them are running viable businesses.
The organization exports tie-dye material to America online and the money is ploughed into the CBO and used as capital for the business enterprise for the women in the group.
The event attracted members of Commonwealth countries based at the UN and the speakers came from the permanent missions of the United Kingdom, the Director of Global Citizen and the ambassador for commonwealth in the USA, a polio health worker from Pakistan, a representative from CNN, and UNICEF Polio director.