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Cultural Landscapes of the Malawian People


  • Population: 16,403,861 (Ranked 62nd in the world by the US Census Bureau).
  • Population density: 16 per square mile.
  • 0-14 years: 21.8% (male 1,717,469/female 1,643,920)
  • 15-64 years: 70.2% (male 5,279,292/female 5,534,607)
  • 65 years and over: 7.9% (male 426,494/female 797,655) (2009 est.)
  • Male to female ratio: 93 males per 100 females.
  • Birth rate: 16.6 per 1,000 people.
  • Life expectancy at birth: male 62.58 years;
  • female 73.47 years (2009 est.)
  • Infant mortality rate: 25.73 per 1,000 live births

Educational Landscape

Pre-primary Beginning age (not available) Duration (not available)
Primary Beginning age, 6 Duration 8 years
Secondary Beginning age, 14 Duration 4 years.


Illiteracy is an issue in Malawian education. It is estimated that only 62.7% of the population over 15 can read. The percentage of women over 15 who can read is thought to be around 41.8%.

Ethnic Landscape

The following are the major ethnic groups in Malawi:

  • Chewa.
  • Nyanja.
  • Tumbuko.
  • Yao.
  • Lomwe.
  • Sena.
  • Tonga.
  • Ngoni.
  • Ngonde.
  • Asian.
  • European.

Social Landscape

Universal suffrage is guaranteed by Malawi’s constitution to anyone over 18, except those in the military. Elections are generally considered fair. The Malawi constitution gives citizens fairly broad freedoms, but some feel it has given the office of president too much authority. Freedom of expression and assembly are guaranteed, but the military and police often use force to prevent strikes. Women and children are not equal, legally, with men, and women still face discrimination in education, employment and business.

Police brutality is thought to be common, and prison conditions are quite harsh. Prisons are also overcrowded, and this problem is worsening as the police arrest more people on politically motivated issues. Freedom of the press has been limited, but is improving.


AIDS is a major issue in Malawi, as in many other Sub-Saharan African nations. Estimates place the number of people infected with HIV at 1,800,000. This is 12% of the total population.

Equality for women is also a big issue. Women are still facing discrimination in education, employment, and business, although they are able to join the military. Domestic violence is thought to be high, but unreported.

Police brutality is also an issue, as is presidential authority. Some external groups fear that both the president and police have been given too much power and are abusing it at the expense of societal freedom. Related to this is the issue of prison condition and overcrowding.

Religion and Faith

Approximately 10,883,000 people in Malawi are Christians (about 80%). While 1,803,000 are Muslim (about 14%). Some (about 6%) still practice indigenous relgion. Within Christiany, about 56% is thought to be Protestant and 24% Roman Catholic.


UNESCO Statistics Division.

US Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook.

Freedom House.

Jonathan Ketcham
© 2018 CYS

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