Center for Women and Girls Empowerment (CEWOGE), a female-led organization that champions the social transformation of vulnerable women and girls in Malawi has demanded women inclusion and increased participation in all government and other players’ interventions towards the battle against Covid-19.

CEWOGE Executive Director Carol Chidothe Matale, who is one of Malawian graduates from the YALI RLC pioneer cohort of 2015, said in a recent interview with Yali TV in the commercial capital, Blantyre, that the government and all players must ensure that all interventions are inclusive to benefit marginalized sectors of the population in Malawi especially women and girls.

“Women are very critical to the fight of the pandemic because they make a great proportion of the country’s population and they are often victims of the poor health system in the country. We hence need to focus our energies towards women inclusion,” said Matale.

The demand comes amid public pressure on the Malawi government which has been accused of monopolizing interventions against COVID-19 while leaving out the voice of equally significant and vulnerable groups including women and girls.

The pressure saw President Peter Mutharika dissolving his special cabinet committee on COVID-19 he set up on 8 March 2020 and comprised mainly cabinet ministers whom many Malawians accused of lacking technical expertise and understanding to handle the pandemic competently.

Mutharika later on April 28, 2020, restructured and replaced the cabinet committee with a 21-member Presidential Taskforce on Coronavirus which is now co-chaired by the minister of health and a professor in public health and includes cabinet ministers, senior government officers, leaders from the business and faith community, chiefs, health researchers, human rights activists, non-governmental organizations and the main opposition party.

CEWOGE donated various Covid-19 sanitation materials worth US$200 at Chikondi Rehabilitation Center (CRC) as one way of fighting the pandemic.

The materials included buckets, detergent soap, face masks, and fliers that carries messages about COVID-10 prevention in vernacular languages.  CRC is an organization that helps vulnerable groups such as women and girls, the elderly, disabled and orphans to realize their full potential through skills development.

Matale told Yali TV Country Correspondence Coordinator that the donation is among various COVID-19 outreach campaigns her organization is currently hosting in Malawi’s Covid-19 hotspots of Blantyre, Lilongwe, and Mzuzu.

CEWOGE through its partners, the Ladies of Influence (LOI), is implementing an indefinite campaign dubbed Task Force Fight Against Covid-19. The task force was launched on March 20, 2020 and is expected to help check the Covid-19 infection rate in the organization’s impact area.

The two institutions which both are female-led and champion women empowerment in Malawi, intend to reach out to as many women as possible since they believe that women are great catalysts of change.

According to the LOI spokesperson, Kulukaya Sadik, the scope of the project is to reach out to vulnerable groups such as women, children, and the disabled with sensitization messages, preventative measures and distribution of sanitary materials through public meetings, while traditional and faith leaders will play a role of mobilizing communities.

She further explained that the two organizations decided to join efforts because they believe if given space, time and resources, women can bring out workable solutions to the pandemic and its effects on vulnerable Malawians.

Commenting on the development, a renowned female gender activist and a Fellow at the Center for Emerging Civil Society Leaders in Malawi, Rehema Patricks applauded the two organizations for joining forces on the project.

Patricks described the move as an opportunity for women to play a leading role in the health sector arguing Malawi has missed a lot of opportunities in the past where similar pandemic interventions sidelined women and consequently failed to achieve intended goals.

“Women are often caregivers in their homes, communities and health facilities, which put them at high risk of contracting the virus. Policymakers need to incorporate gender analysis into the development of Covid-19 policies.” She said.

Over the past month, the initiative sensitized at least 1,200 people in three communities across the Southern Region of Malawi using public meetings as the main channel of communication.

Meanwhile, plans are underway to extend the program to the Central and Northern regions of the country with special focus on prisons and hospitals as they still need extra efforts to supplement those of government and other players.

Covid-19 cases continue to increase in Malawi with recent statistics of active cases exceeding 400, punctuated with a total of 4 deaths.

CEWOGE drives an agenda of helping women and girls to transform their lives, families and communities through investing in local solutions, and strengthening leadership,

By Cannon Chenjezi
Malawi CCC