Malawi Parliamentary women caucus members visit South Africa

May 10, 2016

Malawian Parliamentary delegation with UNDP and UN Women staff captured after the meeting. PHOTO: UNDP SA

Members of Parliament (MPs) from Malawi and South Africa recently met to exchange experiences on good practices in gender transformation. The interaction took place during a four-day visit by the Malawian Parliamentary delegation to South Africa which was hosted by UNWOMEN.

The visit also aimed to assist Malawian MPs acquire hands on experience on how South African women parliamentarians monitor integration of gender issues in national and local legislative processes, including Gender Responsive Budgeting; passing and implementing women-friendly legislation; understanding the interface between the caucus and women in their communities; building relationships with female MPs worldwide; using media and advocacy to push the gender agenda; and documenting best practices that can be replicated in Malawi building on the successes of South Africa’s progress towards gender equality.

UNDP South Africa shared with the delegation some of the results of its work on governance and gender with a particular focus on the Parliamentary support. This included the workshops that UNDP conducted on MDGs for Parliament, which resulted in the first South African Parliament Legislature MDGs Report, and a report on Parliament Multi-Party Women’s Caucus on its Oversight of the Gendered Implications of the Implementation of the MDGs.   The two programmes benefitted legislators from the National Assembly, National Council of Provinces, and the nine provincial legislatures.

 The Malawian MPs also shared their successes and challenges, which they face in their everyday lives as they execute their duties of representing their constituencies and challenges women face in accessing services such as water and education.

“Just by being women, we face many challenges. We are not given the same opportunity as men. Our contribution is highly criticized, it is high time women were also considered as partners in development and not just as women,” said Dr Jessie Kabwira, the Chairperson of the Women’s Caucus in Malawi’s Parliament, adding: “we need policies that destroy the power relations that have always been there and mostly affect women.”

The discussions also focused on the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of Parliamentarians in contributing to the achievement of these global goals. They were also interested in knowing how UNDP can work with MPs to make sure that their constituencies are aware of the goals and are able to hold the governement accountable in delivering on these goals.

The UNDP Country Director in South Africa, Mr. Walid Badawi, highlighted the important role that Parliamentarians can play to raise awareness among their constituencies about these goals. He cited an example of the South African context where the UN has translated the goals into ten local languages, and that the MPs could assist in making sure that these goals are taken to their respective constitunecies so that the local communities are aware of them.

Mr. Badawi further commended UNWOMEN for organizing such an important visit that involves cross country experience sharing.

“These opportunities to learn about how countries like South Africa are addrresing issues of gender maintsreaming within the legislature are a very welcome development. The UN and in particular UNDP is keen to promote more South South Cooperation,” he said.

In his remarks, the Deputy Representative, UNWOMEN Southern Africa Multi Country Office, Mr. Themba Kalua, thanked UNDP for hosting the delegation. “UNWOMEN appreciates the collegial relationship that we share with UNDP and we look forward to more of this kind of collaboration in the future,” said Mr. Kalua.

In her closing remarks; the Honourable Kabwila extended an invitation to both UNDP and UNWOMEN in South Africa to consider organizing a study visit of the South African women’s caucus to Malawi which would provide an opportunity to share some of Malawi’s own experiences.

“The women you are seeing here, are very well accomplished women. In Malawi we have managed to move the marriage and divorce bill because when it comes to gender issues, we forget our party colours and work together as women. The country has done a lot with the little resources. We therefore are looking forward to meeting our counterparts here and share notes. I also would like to invite the South Africa team, to come to Malawi and see what we our doing,” concluded Kabwira.

UNDP South Africa  assured the delegation that it will be taking this up with Parliament in due course as part of its growing collaboration with the institution.