Malawi: Parliamentarians advocate for care work policies

Malawi: Parliamentarians advocate for care work policies

Date: October 4, 2011
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Ephraim Abel Kayembe, Member of Parliament for Malawi’s Dowa West Constituency, is a policymaker working with civil society organisations such as VSO RAISA, to bring attention to the concerns of care workers in his area. The current policy in Malawi is confined to addressing professional care givers and excludes the work of children and women. As with other SADC states there are no incentives, remuneration or psychosocial support programmes for those who fall in this grouping . (1)

Through his work Kayembe is setting new standards for multi stakeholder collaborations and partnerships to respond to the country’s care work needs. He has been involved in a proposed motion that urges the government of Malawi to develop a standalone national policy to support the work of care givers. This motion was due to be moved in the June 2011 budget seating of parliament. In addition, Kayembe is part of a group of MPs working with the Ministry of Health and the SADC Parliamentary Forum to finalise Malawi’s draft care work policy.

Malawi is a signatory to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development signed in 2008. In response to the disappointing progress of his country on reaching the Protocol targets around HIV and AIDS, Kayembe used the commitments to develop and move a motion on urging Government to review and develop a specific national policy on HIV and AIDS to address care work. The Government of Malawi could not reject the proposed motion because it was a reflection of commitments the state had made by signing the Protocol. This allowed the creation of space within which several initiatives are now being undertaken to address issues of women and children carers.

The initiative benefits 40 000 in the constituency. The projects have a particular focus on 1000 carers and 2000 orphans and other vulnerable children in the area. However, there is now a national drive supported by various NGOs and private companies to reach more carers through providing resources for conducting trainings in quality home-based care through similar processes.

Article 27 (3) c of the SADC Protocol states that States Parties shall, by 2015: develop and implement policies and programmes to ensure appropriate recognition of work carried out by caregivers, the majority of whom are women, allocation of resources and psycho-social support for caregivers as well as involvement of men in the care and support of people living with HIV and Aids.”

As such initiatives undertaken by Kayembe have been at the national, constituency and regional levels.

National progress towards Article 27

  • Collaboration with civil society organisations such as VSO RAISA and GEMSA to bring to the attention of Government the concerns and needs of the workers in Malawi.
  • Through the Parliamentary Committee on HIV and AIDS, spearheading review of proposed Bill on HIV and AIDS Management to ensure inclusion of incentives, remuneration, standardised trainings for carers, psycho-social support and male involvement in care work.
  • Participation in the National Conference on review of the policy for professional carers so that it includes issues of informal carers. It was unanimously agreed that a stand-alone policy on informal carers be developed and that Ministry of Health should take a leading role in developing the policy with maximum support and participation of other relevant government departments and stakeholders.
  • Proposal of a motion to urge Government to develop the policy on caregivers developed and referred to Business Committee of Parliament for rigorous review.

Kayembe is working hand in hand with CBOs to begin designing daily work schedules that will allow children to attend classes in the first part of the day and revert to caring when they are out of school. The success of these initiatives is constrained by financial resources. In addition, increased political understanding, commitment and willingness are required to speed up the process of developing relevant policy and legislative frameworks on informal carers. Lobbying efforts have been intensified and there is some commitment to introduce the motion on care work in parliament very soon.

Platforms such as the regional partnership of parliamentarians (SADC PF) have proven useful to encourage heads of states to prioritise development of various policies in the past; national care work policies are not exempt from this. MPs are able to provide the necessary leadership on issues of care work and illustrate the need of involving care workers in processes related to policy making.

(1) Honourable Ephraim Kayembe, MP Dowa West, (2011). Presentation: Parliamentarians Experience in Advocating for Development of National Policy to Support Caregivers in Malawi. Global Partners Conference, UNICEF, New York.

Source: 2011 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer, Lowe Morna C. and Jambaya Nyakujarah L. (2011)


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