No more underage marriages – that’s what Malawian Paramount Chief Kawinga has enforced in his community. He is one of a group of more than 20 male champions for gender justice who came together in a workshop organised mainly by the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) and supported by PaRD to advocate for gender justice in their country.
In Malawi, gender inequalities remain severe. Although the country has one of the highest labour force participation rates, according to the Malawi Economic Monitor December 2021 Addressing Macro and Gender Imbalances by World Bank Office Malawi, women in Malawi continue to be disadvantaged in several areas of economic participation. For example, female wage workers earn about 64 cents for every dollar earned by men, and the turnover of women-owned businesses is lower than that of men.
Men Are Critical Allies for Gender Equality
In Malawi, men often have influence and power in many areas such as business, politics and religious communities, and are often decision-makers in their families. However, especially in patriarchal societies, men can be also important allies for gender equality and strong drivers of change. This has been elaborated by the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) in other projects in other countries in Africa (see box below). Now the learnings of these projects were to be applied in Malawi.
AACC, in collaboration with the Council of Churches in Malawi, the Synod Moderator Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod of Blantyre (CCAP) Blantyre Synod and the AACC Platform of Male Champions in Malawi and with the support of the international Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD), organised a three-day workshop in July 2022, to strengthen the capacity of Malawi’s male champions to advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment, with a focus on justice for widows. The group of participants comprised male and female chiefs, traditional leaders and religious leaders, as well as two representatives of people living with disabilities.
From Banning Underage Marriage to Music About Gender Justice
The workshop made it clear to the participating men how diverse the opportunities are to work for gender justice. Silence usually does not help, as many of the Male Champions realised, for example, on the issue of widows’ rights. This is why they are now working with religious and traditional leaders to advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment – especially justice for widows. But that is just one example.
“We have sermons in church where we preach against gender-based violence and for the love of God,” said Reverend Moyenda Kanjerwa. He was also part of the group and gives an example of what religious leaders can do themselves. His workshop colleague, Malawian Paramount Chief Kawinga, has banned underage marriage in his area, which is another important step towards gender justice. But change cannot only be achieved through campaigns, speeches or political action. It can also be done in a more creative way, as Pastor Matthews Kambalame proves. He uses music to get the message of gender justice across.