By Roseby Gama Gadama (Parliamentary Women Caucus Chairperson)
The Southern African country, Malawi, is get popular with occurrence of deadly tropical cyclone waves. Cyclone Freddy which made a landfall last month, March 2023, is one of the biggest cyclones that ever happened in memory to have caused such as grave destruction to the country.
Unlike the impact of the notable cyclones that hit in the recent past such as; Idai, Kenneth, Anna, and Gombe, cyclone Freddy has affected 15 districts of the southern part of the country, displacing over 500 thousand people and claimed over 500 lives. Scores of people were left in serious injuries with over 500 people missing.
For sure, all the cyclones have had devastating effects in the country. Cyclone Anna and Gombe destroyed EGENCO hydro power stations at Nkula and Kapichira power stations which was an enormous impact to the country struggling to meet its demand for electricity.
No wonder, when cyclone Freddy made a landfall in the country, EGENCO resorted to temporarily suspend production to prevent further damage to the machines which could have costed EGENCO a lot of money to rehabilitate the power plants.
As it stands, the situation in most of the Cyclone hit areas is unbearable to the affected individuals, families, communities and the Government. That is why Government has called upon people from all walks of life to assist victims of Cyclone Freddy following the declaration of the state of natural disaster.
As female Members of Parliament through our grouping of the Women Caucus, which I am the Chairperson, we stand in solidarity with the Government and we implore upon all well-wishers to support our brothers and sisters affected by the disaster.
However, the damage caused by cyclone Freddy has made a very serious impact on the lives of women and girls affected by the disaster.
As you know, in Malawi, women constitute 52% of the country’s population yet the majority of them live in poverty. Yet, women and girls provide caring roles like cooking for their households, collection of firewood, caring for the sick, gardening and in most instances caring for the elderly.
Despite playing significant role in society, in times of calamities like these, the plight of women is often ignored. The simple reason being that the majority of the women folk are outside the decision-making circles.
The Women Caucus, as a grouping of female parliamentarians that aims at advocating and promoting gender ideals in an effort to inform the policy and legislative business before the Assembly and the Committees in order to conform with principles of gender equality, women empowerment and good governance, calls upon all well-wishers to be gender responsive when carrying out humanitarian work for Cyclone Freddy survivors.
Our call is premised on the following key thematic areas, which are the guiding principles of the Caucus existence: Women Economic Empowerment, Women Political Participation, Gender Based Violence and Girls Education.
On girls’ education, everybody knows that with Cyclone Freddy a lot of girls have lost families thus, parents and guardians. It is envisaged that many girls will end up withdrawing from school due to lack of support.
It is the wish of the caucus that whilst the country is striving to put more girls in school, efforts should be undertaken to ensure that survivors of Cyclone Freddy are not withdrawing from school. It is therefore important that well-wishers should begin to prioritize the needs of the girl child to help keep them in school.
Again, it is known fact that when it comes to women economic empowerment, the majority of women in our society ply their trade as Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneurs. The magnitude of damage by Cyclone Freddy has further robbed women of their hard-earned capital.
The impact is felt badly especially in female headed households. The Caucus would like to implore Government and its stakeholders to implement programmes that would capacitate women and girls to continue with their entrepreneurial skills.
Equally important is the need to deal with gender-based violence. The Women Caucus is calling upon all men to desist from taking advantage of women and girls during this devastating time. Experience has shown that there are some abusive men who take advantage of such situations to victimize women and girls.
Also, on women political participation, the Women Caucus is aware that the reason why many women are outside the decision-making circle, is because, often times society discriminates against women who expresses interest to join politics. The Women Caucus is appealing to men and political parties to embrace women within their rank and file so that women begin to take leading role in issues affecting their lives.
In the end, Women Caucus is calling upon the people of this country to be supportive to the women and girls especially the victims of tropical cyclone Freddy.