The socioeconomic profile of Malawi is characterised by poor social indicators with over 60% of the total population of about 11 million people living below poverty fine. Women make up about 52% of the population and are more likely to be poor, as they are the most affected by the poor social indicators. Out of a national literacy rate of 55.8%, only 28% of women are literate. The maternal mortality rate is 620 per 100,000 five births, fertility rate is 6.7 and the annual population growth rate is 3.2%. The life expectancy is at an all time low of 36 years because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In the Situation Analysis of Poverty in Malawi (UN/GOMA993), gender inequality was singled out within the Poverty Alleviation Framework as the major cause of poverty amongst women.
Income levels among women remain very low and only about 10% of women are employed within the formal sector. The combination of these adverse social indicators in ternis of human development makes Malawi one of the poorest of countries in the World.
Although it is recogriised that gender imbalance is a major cause of poverty, the contribution of women remain unappreciated, their potential under-utilised especially within the formal sector in Malawi because of certain traditional beliefs and customs which direct how decisions bearing on inheritance rights, education and health practices concerning women are made.
Even though women constitute a significant percentage of the population, and make significant contributions to national agricultural and economic activities, insufficient provision for their physical needs in health services and infi-astructure continue to receive insufficient resources in the national budget.
In response to the above issues the government of Malawi has faced this challenge by re-orienting structures so that National Development Policies are examined to reflect the different needs and roles of women and men in order to design national strategies that would promote gender equality and the advancement of women in particular. The Government has specifically designed the Poverty
Alleviation Programnie (PAP) as a strategy fbr national development. The PAP franiework recognises, gender as a cross cutting issue in poverty alleviation and has guidelines for ensuring that all sectors take account of gender perspectives in policy formulation, decision making, development planning and programming. The National Platform for Action therefore links with the Poverty Alleviation Framework in guiding gender mainstreaming and ensuring affirmative action in supporting institutions that promote gender equality.
Malawi is also a signatory to conventions and declarations covering
women and children, notably, the Convention on the Elimination of AU Fonns
of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of
the Child (CRC), the SADC declaration on Gender and the addendum on violence