The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace of the Archdiocese of Lilongwe (CCJP Lilongwe) has challenged local leaders to start questioning and changing patriarchal and cultural practices that have, for decades, given women and girls lower status in Dowa and Ntchisi districts.
Authorities blame patriarchal and cultural for contributing significantly to the incidences of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in the two districts.
With funding from UN Women through Spotlight Initiative, CCJP Lilongwe is implementing a project designed to empower women and girls so that they can challenge drivers of violence against women and girls both in private and public spheres.
In addition to enabling a holistic approach to end violence against women and girls, the initiative promotes Agenda 2030’s guiding principle of “leaving no one behind” and build on the momentum of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) efforts especially Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Critically, the initiative includes a comprehensive prevention strategy that addresses structural issues and linkages to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and HIV and AIDS.
Recognizing the scale of the challenge, CCJP is implementing the intervention in partnership with Child Rights Advocacy and Paralegal Aid Centre (CRAPAC) and traditional leaders through a project titled ‘Raising the Voice of Women in the Fight against VAWG’.
From Saturday last week, CCJP and CRAPAC have been training and tasking leaders of local structures such as community-based educators (CBEs), health workers and women groups to spearhead a structural intervention that aims to reduce the acceptance and prevent the incidence of violence.
CCJP Lilongwe Archdiocesan Coordinator Enock Kamundi Phiri said the ultimate goal of their intervention is to contribute towards significant empowerment of women and girls and creation of a violence-free environment.
Kamundi Phiri added that trained leaders are also expected to train additional members of their communities, perform local awareness and mobilization campaigns to monitor the incidence of GBV, encourage take-up of existing support services, and change social norms around violence.
“We want to empower women and girls and make them break free from all forms of violence in Dowa and Ntchisi. We are confident that at the end of this project, the two districts will have reduced SGBV cases to the lowest levels,” he said.
One of the participants, 15-year-old Brenda Tsamba, said the training has equipped with knowledge and skills on how she can prevent violence targeting herself or her friends both at home and school.
“I also know where I can report in the event that violence has occurred,” said Brenda.
Another participant, Senior Group Village Head (SGVH) Chiwoza, said it lamentable that perpetrators of violence have been using patriarchal and cultural practices to justify violence against girls and women.
Chiwoza emphasized that if Malawi is to succeed in fight against violence, these practices must be challenged and changed.
“Otherwise our efforts to end the vice will be in futility,” narrates Chiwoza who chairs the newly established Female Chiefs Committee in T/A Chilooko.
Dowa and Ntchisi are among the districts that to register staggering cases of SGBV, a global pandemic that affects one in three women in their lifetime.
In its 2019 report, the World Bank estimates that 35 percent of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence; seven percent of women have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner and as many as 38 percent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
The bank says this is not only devastating for survivors of violence and their families, but also entails significant social and economic costs.
“In some countries, violence against women is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7 percent of their GDP – more than double what most governments spend on education,” the bank’s 2019 report says.