Concerned Youth Organization (CYO) has challenged members of Parliament (MPs) to formulate and enact gender-responsive legislative frameworks and policies if their representative role in the august House is to make a transformational difference on women and girls in Malawi.
CYO board member Maynard Nyirenda observed that, despite Malawi having relevant laws and policies on gender, there are still noticeable gaps in the implementation and oversight role, including gender budget analysis with gender lens.
Nyirenda made the sentiments at Mponela in Dowa recently during training workshop for parliamentarians on changing discriminatory social norms in Malawi.
Commonwealth of Learning financially supported the training workshop, which attracted members of the Parliamentary Committee on Community Development and Social Welfare, Parliamentary Women’s Caucus, some selected MPs from Mchinji where CYO is implementing a project and selected staff members from the parliament secretariat and Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, among others.
The major objective of the training workshop was to increase the capacity of parliamentarians on changing discriminatory social norms for an effective oversight role on gender related laws and policies in Malawi.
Nyirenda said CYO realizes the significance of constitutional responsibility of parliamentarians for and in lawmaking into sharp focus. He said MPs have a duty to exercise oversight in policy action and budgetary allocations with a view to ensuring that such laws translate into gender equality in all sectors.
“Parliamentarians have a critical role to play in advocating, initiating, drafting, debating and enacting law reforms to strengthen the rights of women and girls including other vulnerable people in the country. As representatives of their communities, parliamentarians are in a rare position as intermediaries between the people and the laws, institutions and systems of government that affect their daily lives,” he said.
The CYO board member explained that discriminatory norms that prevent women/girls from accessing education, limit freedom of choice in age of marriage and in sexual and reproductive health/rights, expose them to violence, and restrict their political participation, must be challenged and transformed.
Nyirenda said the training workshop was therefore the right platform to bring to light the discriminatory norms and discuss the relevant laws and policies and the gaps.
“The training workshop for parliamentarians will be timely and relevant in imparting technical understanding of issues surrounding changing discriminatory social norms, gender budget analysis and gender equality laws. It is therefore imperative to organize a workshop for parliamentarians in Malawi to ensure that this opportunity is harnessed for the effective realization of the rights of women and girls as an integral part of all national recovery processes,” he narrated.
Dedza North lawmaker and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Community Development and Social Welfare, Savel Kafwafwa, admitted the existence of gaps in the implementation of laws and policies bordering on gender equality.
However, Kafwafwa assured the organization of his committee’s commitment to change the status quo.
CYO Executive Director Harvey Chimaliro told Nyasa Times that the workshop outcomes will be a change in the awareness and capacities of parliamentarians and enable them to act against discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes.
Chimaliro added that the changes in awareness and knowledge of parliamentarians from the workshop will result in positive attitudes to bring about changes in dominant social norms, initiate laws reforms and provide oversite role, further enable parliamentarians analyse budget with gender lens.
“The workshop will strengthen the enabling factors for example, increased knowledge leads to change in attitude/behaviour and in turn, fosters transformative actions; meaningful oversight role, capacity building kindles confidence to challenge discrimination and to deal with backlash,” he said.
CYO was established in September 2002 by concerned youths who realized the significance of youth in the development of their society in addressing problems they face. The pioneers were then studying at the Malawi Polytechnic and Chancellor College, constituent colleges under University of Malawi.
The idea to establish CYO was after realizing challenges facing the youth in both urban and rural communities such as unemployment, human rights abuse including early and child marriage, gender inequalities and poor understanding of democracy and good governance, high HIV prevalence among the youth and environmental degradation.
The youth realized the importance of engaging fellow youth in addressing such problems and contributing towards sustainable change in development.
Currently, CYO has a running project in Mchinji on gender equality with financial support from Commonwealth of Learning.
CYO has also significantly contributed toward empowering young university graduates, college graduates and other community youth without any tertiary qualification. These youths are given the opportunity to volunteer with CYO as members/volunteer in order to acquire hands-on job experience and mentorship in project management, which entails project life cycle, community mobilization, report writing, financial management and administration, presentations and public speaking and networking.
Some youth had the opportunity to undergo various training organized by CYO and some by its partners. This has enabled youth to acquire job experience and has opened up employment opportunities for youth.