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Delegates to the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in New York, USA at the UN Headquarters have hailed Malawi’s social protection programmes credited for the improved livelihoods of targeted vulnerable population.

The delegates from various countries such as Kenya, Zambia, Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Mozambique and the Gambia commended Malawi during a side event titled Social Protection and the Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls: Access to Education, Health and Social Services which was organised by Malawi to showcase the efforts that the country is making through social protection in the empowerment of rural women and girls. At least 86 percent of the people of Malawi live.

Minister for Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Cecilia Chazama who is also leader of the Malawi delegation noted that social protection programmes are critical in the fight against poverty and gender inequality in rural areas in the country as they are catalysts of improving livelihoods.

Chazama said that Government has placed social protection as one of its key development strategies in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDSIII) because it realises that social protection is instrumental in the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

“Further to inclusion of social protection in MGDS, Government formulated the National Social Support Policy which is operationalized by the Malawi National Social Support Programme (MNSSP),” said Chazama .

Programmes under MNSSP include the Malawi Social Cash Transfer (SCTP), School Meals, Village Savings and Loans, Public Works Programme (PWP) and microfinance.

Chazama disclosed that of the 280 000 household beneficiaries of the Malawi SCTP, 70 percent are female headed while out of 1 280 000 children under the School Meals Program 51 percent are girls.

“Public works programme has focused on environmental management which has resulted in the recharging of the water table and has therefore led to easy access of water. Further, due to reforestation, women are now able to access firewood close to their communities and thus save them time which the women use in income generating activities.

“The programme has also built community assets such as rural road networks. This has improved access to health facilities and markets. The wages have increased the purchasing power of households hence improving their access to a variety of nutritious food which has reduced morbidity rate,” she said.

Senior Chief Chikumbu of Mulanje explained during a panel discussion at the event that SCTP transfers help women to cater for their families’ basic needs such as food, clothing, school uniform and other materials for their children.

COMSIP Cooperative Union Limited operations manager Susan Kondowe who was among the panelists said COMSIP is implementing the Livelihood and Skills Development under the MNSSP aimed at linking the PWP and SCT beneficiaries to savings and investment groups in order to build resilience and sustainability at household level as support systems for graduation.

Other panelists included Deus Gumba, Chairperson for HIV/Aids and Nutrition and member of Social and Community Services. He explained that the Malawi National Assembly has been very instrumental in pushing for sustainable and well integrated social protection systems in Malawi.

Maggie Kathewera-Banda of the Women Legal Resources Centre (Wolrec) spoke on the role of civil society in facilitating maximum realization of the benefits of social protection to rural women and girls in Malawi.

CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.