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Gender Equality: A powerful tool

We had the pleasure of meeting with Laura Criado Lafuente, the Deputy Country Director of CARE International in Malawi. She kindly responded to our questions related to gender equality, women empowerment, and social paradigms in Malawi.

How does child labour affect girls, young women and women, especially in rural communities?

One of the main consequences of child labour is on children’s education, especially for girls. Education is a low priority in the general population with literacy rates hovering at 68%. From a gender lens, cultural traditions and pressures further undermine the value of education for girls in Malawi. Girls aged 15-17 are 10% more likely to have never attended school than boys of the same age group and are more likely than boys to drop out of school to support their household.

This is impacting on their capacity to develop their full potential and contribute to the country development.

Why is the gender perspective so relevant in the development of projects against child labour?

Social norms influence community behaviour and attitudes towards the harmful practice of child labour and gender inequality. Harmful social norms related to child labour, like the prioritization of child’s employment over education are very closely linked with traditional gender roles that perpetrate child labour and gender inequality.

Implementing a Gender Transformative approach in the development project, it is a powerful tool that enables communities and families to identify and better understand their own negative social norms and practices, demonstrating how social norms can drive individuals to make poor choices. The gender perspective facilitates open community discussions on girls’ rights and abuses in the tobacco growing sector. These discussions will help develop a shared community understanding of how attitudes and norms can both facilitate or challenge the factors that allow for child labour on tobacco farms, as well as the gender harmful practices.

The gender perspective help communities explore inequities in power relations and understand how these inequities affect the health and well-being of children and adolescents, especially girls. These community dialogues will encourage participants to change their perceptions of child labour and girls and give them tools to take specific actions to end child labour and gender equality..

The focus on economic empowerment and capacity building for women is key in projects such as VSLA groups. Why this approach?

Poverty is a main driver of child labour and social inequalities. Providing women with income generation alternatives will be critical to combat the prevalence of child labour and other gender harmful practices. Many women have limited economic opportunities and insufficient resources. CARE, through our flagship VSLA and financial inclusion programs, provides women with the skills and financial means to ensure that they do not resort harmful practices like teenage pregnancies and child marriages for income generation.

In one sentence: How can we best support girls, young women and women fighting against child labour?

Supporting a social movement to hold the Government accountable regarding the investment of the resources to implement the policy frameworks with the objectives to provide Inclusive Quality Education and promote Economic Opportunities for girls and women to develop their full potential and realize their rights.

Thank you for your time, Laura. The ECLT Foundation is proud to have CARE as our implementing partner in Malawi, to run programs on agriculture, health, education, and social and economic empowerment, especially for women.