Raising Malawi, Inc. is a registered 501 c3 non-profit organization
Many of the photos of Malawi used courtesy of Kristen Ashburn.
When examining the status of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in Malawi, the gendered status of the infection is often overlooked.
A closer view of the situation reveals that the women of Malawi are disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS. Not only are they more likely to fall prey to the infection, they are also expected to shoulder the burden of acting as caretakers for those who are ill — a traditionally female role.
"A Voluntary Service Overseas Regional AIDS Initiative Southern Africa and World Health Organization study found that in six SADC countries (Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe) at least 72% of secondary care providers are women."
Thoko Mussa, a national coordinator for the Society for Women and AIDS in Malawi (SWAM), points out that in many cases women in abusive relationships are expected to take on the burden of caring for their husband when he becomes ill. When the situation is flipped and it is the wife who falls sick from HIV-related illnesses, the husband can go as far as to divorce his wife, and call upon his mother-in-law to take the role of caretaker.
These gendered norms need to change if the devastating toll on Malawian women is to be reversed. Men and women alike are joining forces to partner in the fight against AIDS, challenge gender disparities, and work to educate more individuals in communities scarred by violence.
National HIV plans and the 2008–2011 UN Development Action Fund (UNDAF) have highlighted the link between gender and HIV and AIDS and have received commendation from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Domestic violence legislation passed in Malawi in 2006, raising even greater awareness of the issue. But implementing these plans on the ground requires grassroots involvement to bring light to the issue community-by-community, home-by-home.
That's why bringing educational opportunities to the children of Malawi is one of the main goals of Raising Malawi. Paired with effective treatments for HIV and AIDS, educating children across primary and secondary schools can make a tangible impact on a new generation of leaders.