Should Married Women Work in Malawi?

Married Women and Work Life balance in Malawi. Married Women balancing their career and family have been one of their major challenges. Read more articles about married women and work at mywage.org

By Madalitso Kateta

 

For Mphatso Phiri, 22, a coach hostess with one of the fast-growing commuter bus and coach companies in Malawi, balancing her career and family has been one of her major challenges.

While throughout their courtship, her boyfriend Martin had always assured her she should continue with her professional interests, things changed when they got married. Martin was no longer interested in his wife pursuing her career.

Her husband developed a jealous attitude, thereby threatening her economic independence and career development. He demanded that she stop working, as he felt a wife could be involved in extra-marital affairs when her job took her out of the home.

In an interview Mphatso, who is currently separated and in the legal process of divorcing her husband of two years, said she now never feels the happiness that she felt married life could offer.

“My husband demanded that I stop working and take care of family chores. He was jealous to the extent that he suspected that I got involved with other men in the course of my duties,” she said.

Mphatso is not the only girl that is suffering in married life because of her wish to pursue her career interests. Just like Mphatso, Faith Chimalizeni, a front office manager at one of the biggest hotel chains in Blantyre, underwent the same ordeal with her ex-husband. Faith, who is now married to a chef at the same hotel, said that her former husband did not feel comfortable with her working shifts and started pressurising her to pick a teaching position.

“My husband felt that my work schedule at the hotel was not good for our family. He started demanding that I pick a teaching post which he felt was safer. To him, all women working in hotels were harlots,” she said.

She said she tried to talk sense to him but he would not change until she eventually found out that he was going out with a teacher whom he said he was comfortable with.

“I discovered that my husband was going out with another woman. I had to go on with life and I divorced him,” she disclosed.

While such is the development, Section 24 of the Malawi Constitution gives women equal chances to go into contracts and to acquire and maintain rights in property independently.

Patricia Kaliati, Minister of Information and Civic Education in the Malawi government said most of the young men that are not comfortable with independent young career ladies are those that have an inferiority complex.

“Most of the young men that force their wives to stop working are those that are not professionally equipped and they usually have that inferior sort of complex,” she said.

She said it was a norm in many African communities, Malawi included, that people believed that married women should be confined to the house to take care of domestic chores, even if they had a good education.

“Married women should be fairly be given the chance to engage in economic activities and not just be looked at as housewives,” she said.

However, Emmie Chanika, a veteran civil rights activist in Malawi, said that on the positive side, many Malawian young men are currently preferring to marry economically independent ladies.

“Most young men are currently going through university education and they are very ambitious. They usually would like to marry independent career women,” she said.

She said being a career woman did not mean that one was failing to exercise one’s domestic duties.

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