The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has faulted the Malawi Government for what it described as a lack of clear commitment by authorities at the seat of government at Capital Hill to enhancing the participation of women in public procurement.
The human rights watchdog has since demanded that the government should assume an affirmative action by reserving 30 percent of public procurement for women in an effort to address the glaring gender inequalities in the public procurement sector.
CHRR executive director Michael Kaiyatsa made the sentiments at the Business Women Summit, which took place at the Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe on Monday.
State President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera graced the summit, which was held under the theme: Realizing Gender Responsive Procurement and Smart-Inclusive Financing.
And in his presentation titled ‘Enhancing Women’s Participation in Public Contracting’, Kaiyatsa stated that although public procurement takes up to 80 percent of the national budget, women or women-owned businesses win only one percent of contracts.
He cited the absence of specific measures targeting of women such as reservation schemes and capacity building initiatives as some of the obstacles hampering women inclusion in the sector.
“The challenges hindering women participation in public procurement include lack of adequate procurement skills by women, bureaucratic tendencies in registration and licensing and insistence by authorities on the use of previous experience and records to determine the capacity of bidders to be awarded contracts,” he said.
Kaiyatsa added that poor access to procurement information such as availability of opportunities and bid advertisements, sexual harassment and demand for sexual favours in return for contracts discourage many women from participating in public procurement and delays in payment for services rendered are also contributing to women’s failure to participate in public procurement.
He asked the government to seriously consider improving opportunities for women’s participation in public procurement by reserving a specific proportion of contracts for women owned businesses.
Kaiyatsa further challenged the government to train women entrepreneurs on how to access public information relating to public contracting opportunities.
“We recommend that public procurement oversight authorities and procuring entities should publish gender desegregated data regarding companies participating in public contracting. On the other hand, there is a need for the civil society organizations to focus on advocacy on policy and law reform to lobby for affirmative action to increase women’s participation in public contracting,” he said.
In his remarks, President Lazarus Chakwera criticized some people for allegedly politicizing loan disbursement under the National Economic Enhancement Fund (NEEF).