Working to Advance Health Equity in Africa

Policy engagement

Supporting Malawi’s Ministry of Health to develop its position on Malawi’s abortion laws and respond to un CEDAW’s call for abortion law liberalization

Debates on abortions have been highly charged in Africa. HEARD’s work has been discreet, high-level, strategic and promises to be highly effective. In 2015 the government of Malawi was implored by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW) to implement laws and policies to expand access to safe and legal abortion, as well as address reproductive rights violations including child marriage and sexual violence. The UN CEDAW recommendations called for Malawi to amend its abortion law to legalize safe abortion services when there is a risk to the health or life of the pregnant woman, in cases of rape and incest, and cases of severe foetal impairments—as well as ensuring its legal and practical availability without restrictive reporting requirements. In its recommendations to Malawi, UN CEDAW noted the high number of teenage pregnancies and lack of comprehensive and age appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights and family planning services, as well as limited access to modern contraceptives.

Following the UN CEDAW recommendation, HEARD was asked by the Malawi Ministry of Health (MoH) to advise it on its relationship with the Constitutional Review Committee. HEARD has engaged actively with the Ministry at three levels (i) organizing and chairing a high-level retreat of senior ministry official (including the Minister of Health and Permanent Secretary) to develop a consensus approach; (ii) provide a background policy brief from a series of in-country consultations with key NGOs, CBOs and development partners to inform the MoH position; (iii) advise/draft the Ministry of Health’s position paper to Cabinet.