Translation of legislation will empower women

Translation of legislation will empower women

Date: August 20, 2013
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For local business woman Tamara Chimtenje, gender equality efforts are only benefiting men and women educated in English and other colonial languages, while women like herself are either illiterate or only literate in their indigenous languages.

Chimtenje is a mother of four from Kaliyeka Township in Malawi’s capital city Lilongwe. She sells fritters at Kamuzu Central Hospital, a walking distance from the Bingu International Conference Centre-the venue of the SADC Heads of State Summit. She says the Summit presents an opportunity for leaders in the region to discuss issues affecting their citizens and to come up with key solutions to eradicating inequality.

Chimtenje recounts her dreadful experience, when her husband stormed into the marketplace, last July, battered her face, kicked away her bucket of mandasi (flitters) and left her crying on the pavement. She said that her husband beat her after accusing her of promiscuity because she does business far from home.

When asked whether she knows her human rights she responded: “How do you expect me to know these rights when I don’t have an iota of knowledge what our own laws say?”

Chimtenje reckons that the efforts of gender activists, government and media to create awareness about legislation on gender equality, will not bear much fruit unless governments start domesticating the necessary paperwork. She suggests that authorities consider translating these instruments into local languages so the majority of citizens are not sidelined from education and so everyone can have equal access to information about their rights.

“Putting the vital documents in vernacular would help us understand in detail what they entail, so we will know our rights and start fighting for justice,” she argued.

Gender Links has done just that by translating the SADC Gender Protocol as well as other gender awareness materials into 23 local languages spoken in SADC.NGO-Gender Coordination Network Chairperson Emma Kaliya says this and other efforts by government are helping domesticate gender messages and, empowering local people at the grassroots level.

“Government and the civil society have so far translated the Constitution, Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which is helping people to demand equal treatment and holding implementers accountable,” says Kaliya adding that the media also has a pivotal role to play in broadcasting information in local languages.

The clock is ticking louder and louder as the 2015 deadline for gender equality draws closer. Only informed citizens can access and exercise their rights and demand government accountability. Knowledge equals power and without mother tongue education, people especially women, are unable to access and use this knowledge.

James Chavula is a journalist for Nation Publications Limited, a Media Centre of Excellence in Malawi. This article is part of Gender Link’s Opinion and Commentary Service special coverage of SADC HOS Summit in Malawi, offering fresh views on everyday news.

Caption: Tamara Chimtenje sells goods at the Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe. Photo: James Chavula


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