WASHINGTON (Nov. 12, 2019) – A bipartisan group of Congressional staffers traveled to Malawi with CARE to see how vital U.S investments in women’s and youth’s empowerment and health can equip families and communities with the tools and resources necessary to lift themselves out of poverty. The delegation included staffers from Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New York, Arizona, Puerto Rico and Rhode Island. This group was also joined by a media representative and a representative from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation as well as CARE staff.
Malawi is one of the least developed countries in the world, with half of the population living below the national poverty line. In recent years, Malawi has made significant progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including reducing maternal and infant mortality by 30 percent in the last 15 years and significantly increasing the rate of girls’ enrollment in primary school. Life expectancy in the country continues to rise, from a mere 46 years in 2004 to 64 in 2018, and projections are that it will rise to 74 by 2030.
However, despite this progress, inequality and lack of access to health services for women and girls continues to significantly inhibit the development of Malawi; many of these challenges manifest at childhood and persist throughout adulthood and motherhood for Malawian women. The population of Malawi has quadrupled over the past 40 years and the country is home to a massive youth bulge, with a median age of 17.5 years. Malawi’s economy struggles to keep up with population growth as the country has almost little profitable industry. Women and girls who lack a means to generate income are more susceptible to violence and reports show that approximately 40 percent of women in Malawi will experience sexual or physical gender-based violence over their lifetime. Furthermore, the country’s economy – based predominately on agriculture – and the nutritional status of Malawians are both highly dependent upon increasingly varied and unreliable rainfall. Consequently, more than 40 percent of children in Malawi are stunted.
Malawi also is home to one of highest rates of child marriage in the world – nearly 1 in 10 girls are wed before their 15th birthday, and 42 percent are married by the age of 18. Girls married at a young age are forced to drop out of school, forever limiting their income-generating potential, contributing to unequal decision-making power and violence in the home and perpetuating the cycle of poverty. A key challenge to ending child marriage in Malawi is entrenched attitudes that perpetuate the practice, as well as high rates of teen pregnancy, which stifle girls’ education while also risking their health and the health of their children.
On this five-day trip, the delegation witnessed how simple solutions – such as providing safe spaces and training to adolescent girls and women, improving access to health services for expectant mothers and children, and teaching men how they can be more supportive – can empower women to escape poverty and reach their full potential.
During the trip, the delegation met with partner organizations, including Plan International, Management Sciences for Health, Save the Children, World Vision and EngenderHealth and saw health, education, gender and agricultural programs supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as other bilateral donors. The delegation also attended a reception hosted by CARE and the U.S. Ambassador to Malawi Robert Scott and met with the Malawi Minister of Health and Population Jappie Chancy Mtuwa Mhango to learn about the health and development priorities of the Malawian government.
- Participants in CARE’s November 2019 Learning Tour to Malawi included:
- Daniel Bleiberg – Foreign Policy Advisor, Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL-21)
- Vitumbiko Chinoko – Advocacy & Partnerships Coordinator, CARE USA
- Annie Clark – Legislative Assistant, Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ-08)
- Catherine Connor – Vice President of Policy, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
- Natalia Gandia – Legislative Assistant, Rep. Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR-ATL)
- Maura Gillespie – Communications Director, Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-16)
- Rachael Leman – Associate Vice President of Advocacy, CARE USA
- Patience Mgoli Mwale – Learning and Advocacy Manager, CARE Malawi
- Erica Riordan – Legislative Assistant, Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-01)
- Jo Stiles – Legislative Assistant, Rep. Joe Morelle (D-NY-25)
- Teresa Tomassoni – Freelance Journalist
- Sarah Trister – Deputy Chief of Staff, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI-1)
For more information on CARE’s Learning Tours, please visit: www.care.org/LearningTours.
Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside women and girls because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. That’s why women and girls are at the heart of CARE’s community-based efforts to confront hunger, ensure nutrition and food security for all, improve education and health, create economic opportunity and respond to emergencies. In 2018, CARE worked in 95 countries and reached more than 56 million people around the world.
Kamille Gardner, +1 202-459-8572, Kamille.Gardner@care.org