Economic inequality has worsened significantly in Malawi in recent years. In 2004, the richest 10 percent of Malawians consumed 22 times more than the poorest 10 percent. By 2011 this had risen to see the richest 10 percent spending 34 times more than the poorest. Yet even this shocking statistic is likely to be a significant underestimate1. Anyone who has seen the many large mansions springing up on the edges of Lilongwe and Blantyre, and the plethora of new shopping malls being opened, knows that conspicuous consumption amongst the richest is dramatically growing. Malawi’s Gini coefficient, the key measure of inequality, also shows the extent to which robust economic growth is benefiting the rich whilst leaving the poor behind. In seven years of impressive growth, the Gini has leapt up from 0.39, on a par with Cameroon, to 0.45, on a par with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Food prices maybe regressive in the sense that the poor compared to the non-poor pay more for food (e.g. Attanasio and Frayne, 2006; Beatty, 2010; Gibson and Kim, 2013).
Reasons for this poverty penalty (see e.g. Muller (2002) and Mendoza (2011)); Serving the poor may be more costly, the poor face greater liquidity constraints(They buy food in small quantities, hence not enjoy quantity/bulk discounts which leads to higher unit prices), liquidity constraints and a lack of proper post harvest storage facilities or a combination of both( the poor to buy food at suboptimal periods), Higher search costs (poor paying more for food)
The 2013 Human Development Report presents Human Development Index (HDI) values and ranks for 187 countries and UN-recognized territories, along with the Inequality-adjusted HDI for 132 countries, the Gender Inequality Index for 148 countries, and the Multidimensional Poverty Index for 104 countries. Country rankings and values in the annual Human Development Index (HDI) are kept under strict embargo until the global launch and worldwide electronic release of the Human Development Report.
It is misleading to compare values and rankings with those of previously published reports, because the underlying data and methods have changed. Readers are advised in the Report to assess progress in HDI values by referring to table 2 (‘Human Development Index Trends’) in the Statistical Annex of the report. Table 2 is based on consistent indicators, methodology and time-series data and thus shows real changes in values and ranks over time reflecting the actual progress countries have made. Caution is requested when interpreting small changes in values because they may not be statistically significant due to the sampling variation. Generally speaking, changes in third decimal of all composite indices are considered insignificant.
In the late 1980s, USAID’s Africa Bureau mobilized to meet a congressional earmark for basic education. This earmark challenged the Bureau to develop African capacity to deliver, on a sustained basis, quality and equitable education to the majority of children in Africa. The earmark encouraged the Bureau to target countries without ongoing or previous USAID education programs. It also provided financial resources that allowed the Bureau to participate in reform on a larger scale than usual.
Increasing Poverty and Inequality: Malawi is one of the world’s poorest economies ranking 171 out of 187 in the Human Development Index (HDI). Malawi has made some progress on its Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) but is still unlikely to meet most targets. Poverty levels in Malawi remain at 51% and have not registered a significant reduction since 2004. Rural poverty has increased to 56.6% as has income inequality. There has been some progress on under five and infant mortality, HIV treatment and access to water and sanitation. Maternal mortality remains high with 10 women dying daily. One in five children of school going age is still out of school. Gender inequalities persist in every sector. Rapid population growth combined with the effects of climate change are causing severe stress on agriculture and undermining food security.
In September, 2001, a special Law Commission was empanelled under section 133 of the Constitution to undertake a review of the laws of Malawi in accordance with Government’s policy to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in all spheres of life in Malawi. This was in response to the new constitutional order; the emerging socio-political dispensation prevailing in Malawi; and in recognition of Government’s commitment to international law and policy on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
One of the most enduring types of educational inequality is that of gender. At a global level, the gender gap in education has been reduced significantly in many of the countries of the North although it remains extreme in parts of the South, particularly in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). South Asia has the largest gender gap at both the primary and secondary levels followed by SSA. In the poorest countries of the world, gender inequality is reflected in lower enrolment, attainment and achievement, and higher wastage rates for girls. While SSA has the lowest levels of education as a region, it has, nonetheless, made the most progress in increasing schooling for girls and women over the past three decades (UNESCO, 1993). Thus, the enrolment of girls has increased at a faster rate than that of boys although starting from a much lower base level. This is largely the consequence of the expansionary education policies followed by post-independence African governments. Even so, gender inequalities with respect to enrolment levels and educational outcomes are still very marked both in absolute terms and in relation to other developing countries. During the 1980s, two-thirds of primary school-aged African children who were out of school were female (Colclough, 1994). While it is true that the enrolment gap between boys and girls has diminished in many SSA countries at the primary level, the education of women and girls remains highly inequitable, particularly at the tertiary level.
Gender equality is emphasized by its inclusion as one of the eight MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and is first and foremost a human right.1 The UN refers to gender equality as the equal rights, responsibility and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys. Women’s and men’s rights, responsibility and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female.2 Gender equality is an issue worldwide but where women are specially targeted is in underdeveloped countries where human development and gender inequality are usually correlated.3 Women are in many parts of the world discriminated due to religious and cultural factors and in Africa a woman’s ability to make an informed decision without any form of discrimination is in many cases not a given right.4 Nearly all of today’s African countries have at some point been a colony under French, British, Portuguese, Boer, German or Leopold of Belgian rule5 and most countries are flawed democracies or hybrid regimes.6 There has been some significant democratic improvement in many African nations and young democracies capture the opportunity to enhance gender equality. In January 2006 Liberia became the first African country to ever have a female president when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was sworn in as president. In April 2012 Joyce Banda became the first female president in Malawi. Banda explains good political and economic governance guarantees fairness, equality and freedom. She agrees gender equality use the full potential of both men and women and enhances the capacity for women to participate in matters affecting them.7
Because of this lack of or failure to mainstream gender the results on gender and poverty are not satisfactory. Women still lag behind in many areas of development and men’s contribution to changing the situation isnot being fully harnessed. The main development areas where women’s participation has greater poverty reduction returns are education, economy, health, decision making, social protection, human rights protection, and legal reform to support the other areas. It is possible to estimate the costs of implementing gender blind development programs in these areas in terms of forgone economic growth (wealth creation) and poverty reduction. Semu et al, 2004, estimated, depending on sector of theme, that up to 2% economic growth is foregone due to implementing gender unresponsive programs.
The Constitution of Malawi was adopted in 1994 and consists of 23 Chapters and 215 sections. It seeks to enshrine the principle of equality not only in general terms but it is also quite specific in mandating gender equality (section 13), promoting women’s rights (section 24), and prohibiting any kind of discrimination based on gender (section 20), even though it does not legally define discrimination.1 The Constitution also prohibits the National Assembly or any subordinate legislative authority from creating any law or taking any action that would abolish or infringe on people’s rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution.