By Stanley Mkhondoyachepa MANA
Malawi will for the first time join the rest of the world in observing the International Widows Day declared by the United Nations (UN) to provide an opportunity to draw attention to the voices and experiences of widows and galvanize the unique support they need.
Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Jean Sendeza disclosed this during a media briefing in Lilongwe on Tuesday ahead of the day.
Sendeza was pleased that Malawi will be undertaking the gesture, observing that stigma and harmful cultural practices affect the dignity of widows.
“Cultural practices such as Kulowa Kufa and Chokolo put widows at the risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases and psychological trauma which may make them unproductive citizens.
“I urge community and religious leaders and other stakeholders to support government in its quest to end such harmful cultural practices” she said.
She said her ministry has enacted laws such as the Gender Equality Act (2013), Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act (2015), and the Deceased Estate Wills and Inheritance Act (2011).
The Acts prohibit harmful practices that undermine the dignity of women and perpetuate gender inequalities and protect widows from abuse, among others.
The minister called upon all stakeholders to support government in coming up with programs and policies for ending violence against widows and their children.
Janet Msefula, a widow from Dowa hailed the day saying it will put to light challenges widows face such as discrimination and property grabbing.
She called on authorities to consider giving them loans so that they can engage in businesses to support their children.
Board Member of Malawi Widows Association, Nasreen Khonat, agreed with Msefula saying widows face discrimination.
“Every time a man dies, it is as though it’s the woman who killed them and are called witches and this leads to mob justice” she said.