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The World Bank has singled out Malawi as a top performer in gender equality as revealed by the 2019 World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law: A Decade of Reform which examined 187 economies around the world over the last ten years.

Malawi has been recognized for passing laws that ban sexual harassment in the workplace in 2014. At least 35 countries banned sexual harassment at work place between 2010 and 2018. Eight countries in Africa banned sexual harassment at work place.

Speaking on Thursday during a panel discussion organised by the World Bank Group as a side event during the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, United States of America, the World Bank Senior Director for Gender, Caren Grown that Malawi is a top performer in gender equality reform as its score improved by 15.6 points going from 68.13 to 83.75 over the last ten years.

Malawi is sharing the score with USA, Kenya and The Bahamas. The score is topped by Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden at 100 points while Saudi Arabia at 25.63 points anchors the table.

“Some of the reforms that are really important that Malawi made include legislating action against sexual harassment in the workplace and introducing pension care credits for women to take child care leave, and that’s such an important innovation,” Grown said.

The World Bank considers gender equality is a critical component of economic growth.

“Women are half of the world’s population and we have our role to play in creating a more prosperous world. But we won’t succeed in playing it if the laws are holding us back,” says Kristalina Georgieva the Interim President, World Bank Group and Chief Executive Officer

in the foreword of the report.

Minister for Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare; Cecilia Chazama said that the Government of Malawi’s plans are to continue with the popularization, implementation and enforcement of all the gender related laws, policies and strategies among other initiatives.

“The Government of Malawi would like to address the existing challenges by continuing popularization, implementation and enforcement of all the gender related laws, policies and strategies, strengthening the institutional frameworks for gender equality and women empowerment, increasing investments in girls’ education through keeping girls in school to reduce child marriages and teen pregnancies and provision of bursaries and loans to needy students at secondary and tertiary levels, scaling up access to Sexual Reproductive Health and HIV and Aids Services, increasing investments in early years of life for human capital development, scaling up micro, small and medium enterprises and skills development for economic empowerment of women and girls, intensifying male involvement to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, and increasing the period of maternity leave from 3 to 6 months in both private and public sectors to allow for exclusive breastfeeding,” she said.

Speaking at the same event, UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka applauded Malawi for being a role model in its work with traditional leaders in the fight against child marriages.

“One thing that we are also very proud of, which Malawi and Zambia has done, is working with the traditional chiefs to encourage them to facilitate the change of the norms and the culture in order to increase the uptake of the new laws that are ending child marriages and other forms of violence against women and girls. The partnership between us and these two countries has actually pushed us into working intensely across Africa with the traditional chiefs,” she said.

The World Bank Women, Business and the Law 2019 index measured 8 indicators which are: freedom of movement, women’s decision to work, women’s pay, constraints to marriage, maternity leave, business enterprise, ownership and inheritance of property and size of a woman’s pension.

Malawi scored a hundred percent on reform indicators on starting a job, getting paid, getting married, managing assets, and getting a pension.

The World Bank’s goal was to gain a better understanding of how women’s employment and entrepreneurship are affected by legal discrimination. The report has shown that there has been great progress towards legal gender equality over the past decade.