WLSA-Malawi

Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Educational Trust

Posted by y8tannie on September 2, 2009


OBJECTIVIES
The specific objectives of WLSA Malawi are to:

    Conduct research on gender issues in Malawi and Southern Africa, particularly on issues related to legal rights. Provide information on gender and the law in order to influence policy and legal reform. Networking and exchanging information between the seven WLSA countries. Conduct relevant training and education. Explore and develop new methodologies and new perspectives for the study of gender and the law.
WLSA addresses the law from three perspectives that may discriminate against women:

  • The “substantive” area of the law which relates to either documented laws or customs that are in force and operational.
  • The “structural” area of the law which relates to problems with the courts, enforcement and administrative areas of the state.
  • The “cultural” area of the law which relates to the shared attitudes and behaviour towards the law.

Therefore Action Research, Advocacy, Training and Education on Women Rights, Laws and Policies relating to the same are the core business of WLSA Malawi’s activities. WLSA’s best practice is that it carries out research on a problem area, disseminates the findings, designs a programme to rectify gaps found and further uses the information to change the situation of women in Malawi. It is the only organization in Malawi that connects women’s rights, gender and the law and has professional and skilled staff, which has capacity and commitment to work at multiple levels. Further to this WLSA-Malawi has a high degree of visibility in the country.

2. VISION STATEMENT
A society in which the law is conducive to women enjoying their rights
3. MISSION STATEMENT
WLSA-Malawi is women’s rights NGO that exists to empower women in Malawi through the law by conducting action research, training and advocacy for legal and policy reform.
4. VALUES STATEMENT
WLSA –Malawi believes in and upholds the values of:

  • • Professionalism – (adhering to high quality standards in all aspects of our work and providing unique responses to unique situations or being responsive)
  • • Commitment- (being people centred at all times)
5. WHERE ARE WE COMING FROM AND WHAT HAVE WE DONE SO FAR?
Since its inception into WLSA, the Malawi National Office has conducted five grounded action-researches on the Justice Delivery System and have since published two reports entitled In Search of Justice: Women and the Administration of Justice Delivery in Malawi (2000) and Dispossessing the Widow: Gender Based Violence In Malawi (2002). The latter examines the ways that the justice delivery system addresses gender based violence, specifically the dispossession of the widow in inheritance and succession matters. The findings of this publication have been widely popularized: UNICEF has utilized the findings as a resource base in popularizing this issue and WLSA Malawi has disseminated the research results on CNN and BBC. Further to the above WLSA has conducted the following research Feminisation of HIV/AIDS in Malawi: Women’s Right to Life and Factors That Create Vulnerability to HIV Transmission, and Women And HIV/AIDS In Six Districts In Malawi: Balancing The Equation Between Grounded Realities And The Appropriateness Of The Response. These two researches are currently being published. The former formed the basis for a course that the National Coordinator of WLSA Malawi designed to teach at the University Of Toronto Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Centre for Women’s Studies in Education the fall term of 2007.
The fifth study is ongoing. The Tentative Title of this research is Poor, Invisible and Excluded: Women in State Custody Malawi. Apart from the above WLSA Malawi has published a number of publications including Discussing the Prevention of Domestic Violence Legislation in Malawi: Multi-sectoral Perspectives (2003); Domestic Violence Awareness Handbook (2003); WLSA Malawi 5 Years in Review (2003); Beyond Inequalities, Women in Malawi (2005); Gender, What does it entail? Engendering Parliament in Malawi (2005), Contributing towards the Realisation of Women’s Human Rights and Gender Justice: Recommendations for a More Equitable Constitution Blantyre Malawi (2006).
Since WLSA Malawi began its programmes, it has collaborated with other WLSA countries through management and regional meetings on action programmes and the research programme. At the national level, WLSA Malawi has undertaken work in both its research and action programmes with the Government of Malawi through the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Ministry of Justice; the Judiciary; District Commissioners; traditional leaders; the police service; other NGOs; international donors and the ultimate beneficiaries, women.
WLSA-Malawi’s action research programmes have had significant impact on various sectors of society. WLSA’s study on the Justice Delivery System has been used by various organizations to pursue some of the human and legal rights issues identified in the study. For example, following WLSA’s recommendation for extensive research on the role of traditional structures in delivering justice, DFID is currently implementing a project regarding access to traditional justice delivery system in Malawi. Furthermore, WLSA in partnership with the Joint OXFAM Programme in Malawi, the Democracy Consolidation Programme (DCP), and HIVOS are currently implementing Rights Based Approach projects four districts of Malawi in order to target the supply side of rights in the Justice Delivery System (2002 to present). This Programme is called Integrating a Rights-Based Approach to Public Service Delivery.
Various stakeholders have utilized WLSA’s research findings to advocate for changes in the policies and laws in Malawi. For example, The Special Commission on Gender Related Laws has utilized recommendations made in WLSA’s study on the Wills and Inheritance Situation in Malawi to review the Wills and Inheritance Act. Further to this, after the Justice Delivery Study WLSA conceived the idea of coming up with a law preventing domestic violence in Malawi. Since 2001, WLSA engaged in strategic lobbying exercise to ensure that the law is drafted and passed. On 28th April, 2006, the law was passed. This is a major achievement of WLSA and it is unprecedented by any NGO in Malawi. Further, the Society for Women and AIDS in Malawi (SWAM) has started a project on “Reducing the Susceptibility and Vulnerability of Young Women and Girls to HIV/AIDS” In Nkhotakota. The SWAM has categorically indicated that the project was introduced in the area as a result of the Pilot study undertaken by WLSA in Nkhotakota on 2003. This shows that WLSA works is catalytic and informs critical stakeholders for critical change in laws and policy as well as programme and project formulation.
In 2006 WLSA Malawi in partnership with 2 other NGOs in Malawi led the NGO delegation to the United Nations where it presented Malawi’s First Shadow Report on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This Report is entitled “Taking Malawian Women’s True Lived Realities to a Global Forum”. Further to the above, WLSA Malawi has in the past organized and conducted training workshops and courses on gender related issues in various sectors of the economy in the country. Some of the papers and workshops organized include Gender analysis and mainstreaming for the Public and Private sectors as well as for the civil society. WLSA continues to train these sectors in the areas of mainstreaming gender and human rights, including laws on Maintenance, Wills and Inheritance, Gender Based Violence, Employment Law. Members of staff have been invited to present papers and give talks to various institutions in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Norway and some countries in Africa such as South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Zambia.
6. OTHER ACTIVITIES UNDERTAKEN BY WLSA MALAWI
WLSA Malawi has in the past organized and conducted training workshops and courses on gender related issues in various sectors of the economy in the country. Some of the papers and workshops organized include Gender analysis and mainstreaming for the Public and Private sectors as well as for the civil society. WLSA continues to train these sectors in the areas of mainstreaming gender and human rights, including laws on Maintenance, Wills and Inheritance, Gender Based Violence, Employment Law. Members of staff have been invited to present papers and give talks to various institutions in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and some countries in Africa such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Zambia. WLSA has also repackaged its research findings and trainings on the various subjects into over 20,000 posters and pamphlets in English and Chichewa.
7. LEADERSHIP
WLSA Malawi is led by Seodi White who is the National Coordinator. She is a multidisciplinary trained lawyer, with a lot of experience in legal anthropology. Her main research interests are in legal pluralism and women’s rights, access to justice, HIV/AIDS, gender, culture and socialization, property rights and sexual and reproductive health rights of women. She received her Law degree from the University of Botswana and her Masters Degree in Gender and Development from the University Of Sussex, Institute of Development Studies (IDS). She was also the 2007 Dame Nita Barrow Distinguished Visitor at the University Of Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) Centre for Women’s Studies in Education where she taught a course on Women, HIV/AIDS and the Appropriateness of the Response in Southern Africa.

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