Gender, HIV/AIDS and Rights in Malawi
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is one that has been felt globally; yet with the tenth highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world, Malawi has been especially affected. The spread of HIV/AIDS can be attributed to many factors including poverty, lack of education, as well as cultural practices and beliefs.
Unfortunately these obstacles continue to be widespread in Malawi. Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with the majority of its people living below the poverty line. Most of the poor are so preoccupied with survival that they spend about 70% of their time and income on food, leaving them with little to spend on anything else. Poverty in Malawi is caused by a number of factors that include low agricultural production, low labour productivity, and limited access to capital. Agriculture remains the main source of livelihood despite the many challenges it encounters. The southern region of Malawi in particular is the most densely populated, encompassing a complexity of social pressures among the communities such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, land shortage, drought, and deforestation among others.
Gender inequality within Malawi has made women and girls a vulnerable population in the face of both poverty and HIV/AIDS. The cultural role of men and women heavily impede the decision making power that women may exercise when it comes to their sexual practices as well as their access to resources. It is found that the number of girls attending school is almost half that of boys due to socio-economic and socio-cultural issues. High dropout rates among girls means that very few complete standard 8 and most leave school without being literate. This reality leaves girls and women at a disadvantage, as they are forced to be essentially dependant on men. This lack of power and independence heavily contributes to the number of women infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
The women of WOFAD know all of these challenges all too well, as we live these realities on a daily basis. Experiencing first hand the effects of HIV/AIDS within our families and our communities, it was time that women come together and fight for their own solutions. We are a group of women that aim to empower other women to make healthy choices when it comes to sexual practices and everyday life, while also aiding women to grow economically.