Fighting for justice for women and girls in Malawi

On the show this month: Sarai Chisala-Templehoff, a Malawian human rights and social justice lawyer.

Sarai is the Founder of the Gender and Justice Unit in Malawi – an organisation educating women on their legal rights, in a hugely patriarchal society. Much of the work that the Gender and Justice Unit does centers around women’s access to justice in the country – through working with partners, including Irish rule of Law International, providing support and responding to legal gaps.

Sarai talks about the social and cultural landscape in Malawi, where many young girls are married very young, some before their 15th birthday, despite child marriage being illegal in the country. The NGO, Girls Not Brides, has said that Malawi has the 12th highest child marriage rate in the world. In 2020, this equated to 46% of girls married before turning 18. Sarai talks about child marriage being viewed as a means to improving economic status. She also talks about the non-rights of women being systematic, given that many young pregnant girls drop out of school early, and that's when the cycle of injustice starts, Sarai says.

In Malawi, 34% of women aged between 15 and 49 have reported experiencing physical violence, 14% sexual violence, and 23% emotional violence. During the course of the conversation, we discuss this with Sarai in the broader context of the discrimination that women and girls face in the country.

Malawi ranks 9th globally in terms of aids prevalence. There are an estimated 1.1 million Malawians living with HIV and over 771,000 orphaned children, many due to AIDS. Sarai talks about her work in this field.

How is climate change impacting the rights of women and girls in Malawi? Sarai believes that the Gender and Justice Unit will need to become better equipped in climate issues to continue to serve its community needs.


Presented and produced by Evelyn McClafferty.
With thanks to our donors: Irish Aid.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this episode do not necessarily represent those of IRLI or Irish Aid.



Gender and Justice Unit, Malawi

Girls Not Brides, Malawi


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