National Symposium on Population and Development: Accelerating Malawi’s Promise
31 October 2019
Author: Victory Kamthunzi

On 30 October 2019, the Malawi government together with development partners and stakeholders converged at the Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) for the National Symposium on Population and Development in Lilongwe Malawi, in preparation for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Nairobi Summit on 12-14 November 2019. The theme of the symposium was “ICPD@25: Accelerating Malawi’s Promise” to review Malawi’s progress so far and recommend national commitments in advancing the global commitments going forward.

The African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) facilitated the event with Prof. Nyovani Madise, AFIDEP Director of Research and Development Policy and Head of the Malawi office, presenting on the ‘Status of ICPD Programme of Action in Malawi’. She noted that though the country had done well in the adoption of contraceptive use, with 58% of Malawian women using modern methods of contraception in 2016 up from 7% in 1992, there is still room for improvement as only 32% of unmarried adolescents aged 15-19 years were using modern methods of contraception in 2016 up from 17% in 2000.

In recommending areas where stakeholders need to intensify efforts to ‘accelerate Malawi’s promise’, she cited improved maternal health, reduction in child marriages, reduction in early childbearing and quality education as the vital elements. “Primary education is not enough for meaningful empowerment of girls and women”, she said.

Also in attendance were Hon. Dr Ben Phiri, MP—Minister of Local Government and Rural Development (Guest of Honour), Dr Thomas Munthali—Director General, National Planning Commission, Won Young Hong—UNFPA, Country Representative and Littleton Tazewell- USAID, Mission Director, all addressed the delegates.

Dr Thomas Munthali as the keynote speaker presented on the ‘Integration of population dynamics into national development and harnessing the youth bulge’, where he spoke on the development of a successor to vision 2020  – National transformation 2063, with a wealth creation agenda, ‘from poverty reduction to spearheading wealth creation for all’. He asserted that there is a need to have a more positive mindset in tackling the key strategies for creating wealth. He cited the two key messages in the wealth creation agenda as harnessing the existing demographic dividend and providing for a quality population looking into the future, specifically access to education and family planning services. “It is possible in this country. It is possible to be self-reliant”, he said.

Development partners were allowed to display and present their work in SRH on pavilions and engage in a discussion with the minister Hon. Dr Ben Phiri on the work and the impact it is having on the ground. Hon. Dr Ben Phiri asked AFIDEP’s Prof. Madise what a member of parliament can do to help harness the demographic dividend. Watch her response below.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the ICPD – a milestone in reproductive health and rights. The ICPD Programme of Action issued at the 1994 ICPD in Cairo emphasized the value of investing in women and girls and affirmed the principle of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all. This outlook shifted the emphasis of population policies away from slowing population growth to improving the lives of individuals, particularly women. So as we converge on 12-14 November at the Nairobi Summit let us keep each other accountable and push forward in attaining the fundamental rights and freedoms that enable people to fully participate in society, benefit from social and economic advancements and live a decent life.

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