A latest report by Oxfam shows that continued shortchanging women remains a major obstacle in closing the inequality gaps between men and women in many countries across the globe including Malawi.
Speaking during a panel discussion on inequality and unpaid care work in Malawi in Lilongwe on Monday, Oxfam’s Governance Program Manager Mathias Kafunda observed that women continue to work for much longer in unpaid care work.
“This implies that many of the women cooking, cleaning, washing and engaging in other caregiving roles will not find an opportunity to earn an income. As a result, prospects for developing are narrower,” observed Kafunda.
He further said other than disadvantaging women, it also perpetuates gender and economic inequalities.
“It also leaves women and girls time-poor, not able to access basic needs or participate in social and political activities,” he added.
Agnes Mphote of the Lilongwe Women Urban Forum said the situation on the ground is dire.
“In some cases, even those that are in employment operate in an environment not fit for empowerment. We have had situations where some employers of house servants have been making absurd deductions even without prior agreement. Some have their wages deducted for eating at their work or using electric appliances such as an iron,” Mphote lamented.
She added that some domestic servants end up carting a paycheck as low as K 15,000 way too low for the government approved minimum wage of K 35,000.
Mphote further noted that the challenges faced by some working women shows a pattern that challenges faced by the unpaid and underpaid caregivers are almost similar.
“These categories (of work) are not seriously considered. Even where laws are prevalent, there is no enforcement at all,” she added.
Kettie Nyasulu of the Economics Association of Malawi (ECAMA) concurs with Kafunda and Mphote, further stressing that with a majority of the population leaving and working in such conditions, prospects for bridging the inequality gap are further widened.
“If we are to empower women to meaningfully engage in the economy we can make great strides. Decent wages that move away from the current scenario are the way to go,” she said.
A report released by Oxfam titled ‘Time to Care’ highlights the plight of unpaid and underpaid care work and how it impacts on inequality.
The new report calls on government to embrace progressive policies aimed at building a human economy that supports women, instead of chasing profits and wealth generation.
The report specifically speaks to the need to enhance the country’s care system, introducing progressive taxation and enacting laws that motivate caregivers as initial steps.