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Call for guest contributions on #Malawi and the #WEF #GlobalGenderGapReport2014

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P1070445The case of Malawi shows that while legal reform, transition to political pluralism, and adoption of the language of international human rights may facilitate the formation of a constitution that guarantees and respects all people’s human rights, a cultural discourse that presents contradictions and ironies regarding women’s status may limit the extent to which these processes are translated into automatic and predictable gains for women. Precolonial gender roles and historical processes in the colonial and postcolonial period have resulted in a fluidity with which the concept of culture is used. Under Kamuzu Banda’s rule, the state appropriated the mbumba culture to create a mass-based political organization, and yet did not give women real power. Since the transition to liberal democracy in 1993-1994, the Malawi government has shown a willingness to preach gender equality by adopting a nondiscrimination clause in its constitution and undertaking legal reform and policy initiatives; however, the political will to act is not in evidence. Women have resisted the cultural opposition to their empowerment by utilizing their matrilineal role as kingmakers and adopting arguments consistent with traditional participatory decision-making processes to push for changes in their favor, albeit with little effect. Currently, civil society seems the most viable option for speeding up women’s participation in the political process and the legal sphere. Through it, women can push for legal changes, provide legal literacy to women, address constraints to women’s participation in the cultural arena through civic education, and work closely together within and outside the formal political process. (Semu, 2002)

Twelve years later, Semu’s words still ring true. The image of HKB and the dancing Mbumba is as relevant and real today as it was decades ago. This is an invitation for guest bloggers to reflect upon the recently published World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report that ranks Malawi 34th out of 142 countries. The report measures the relative gaps between women and men across four key areas: health, education, economy and politics. Malawi is one of the top ten countries in the region, being a “top performer in the region on primary education” although levels of literacy remain low.  However, since 2006, the country is among the best improvers in the region. Guest bloggers are invited to interrogate the report, the rankings and the realities of gender inequities in Malawi. What impact can/do international rankings have upon the progressive advancement of gender equality in Malawi? Submissions should be between 800-1000 words. Interested contributors should email their pieces to contributions@emgender.org

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