Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Empowering Women Essential to Successful Community Development

While gender equity and women’s empowerment is now widely held as essential to reducing poverty, a disproportionately high number of women and girls around the world are still subject to the effects of discrimination, poverty, and illiteracy, said the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

In Malawi, where female-headed households are among the poorest in the country, ADRA is helping women overcome these obstacles through the Women Empowerment Project (WEP), an initiative whose main goal is to empower women by promoting their rights and health status, and encourage self-supporting income generating initiatives. By April of 2009, ADRA expects that some 5,000 people will have benefited directly and another 15,000 indirectly in communities in the Mulanje district of southern Malawi. Women currently head many of the targeted households, while at least 81 percent of the indirect beneficiaries are women and children.

“The proposed project will help men see women as partners in development, without whom society is not complete,” said Per Bolling, project officer for ADRA Sweden, about the inclusion of men in the project. “This will also help improve the marital relations among targeted men and women, a factor that has proven successful among other rural families.”

Through the WEP, members benefit from group discussions, theater, and door-to-door visits that highlight issues that are important to them, such as gender and human rights, adult literacy, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, clean water, home gardening, animal husbandry, and additional livelihood activities.

The project is targeting 1,000 households in 20 villages, with each village receiving a water well. Through the installation of wells, women, who are the primary water-collectors, have additional time to participate in literacy training, home gardening, and other project activities.

“People are now able to envision their future in a more positive way, and identify and advocate for the issues that directly affect them,” said Andiyesa Mhango, WEP project manager for ADRA Malawi.

Due to its success, this two-year project has been extended for two more years, said Emanuel da Costa, country director for ADRA Malawi.

The project is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) through the Swedish Mission Council, and ADRA Sweden.

Since 1982, ADRA Malawi has been working in the areas of disaster relief, water and sanitation, HIV and AIDS, family planning, agriculture, primary health, basic education, and empowerment of vulnerable groups, such as women and children.

ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race or ethnicity.

For more information about ADRA, visit

Author: Nadia McGill
ADRA International

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