14 July 2017

Malawi: Child Justice Court Appeals for Support to Extend to Hard-to-Reach Areas

Mzuzu — The Mzuzu Child Justice Court has appealed for more support from stakeholders to enable more children especially those living in remote areas access the court's services.

First Grade Magistrate, Lillian Munthali said Wednesday that there is still a lot to be done for children in hard-to-reach areas to also have access to the court.

"There are so many areas where people do not know that we exist, let alone be familiar with our services.

"If there could be more interventions to help us reach these communities, we would see that a lot of secrecy pertaining to violation of children's rights would be broken," she said adding that the court does not have financial muscle to do the awareness on its own.

Magistrate Munthali further requested for consideration in offering training opportunities to the court's staff for them to be up-to-date.

"Working with children is not a simple job as it requires one to be like the child itself which calls for excellent listening, speaking and even understanding skills in order for the child to be able to feel at ease and provide all necessary information.

"But with a group of employees that are not up-to-date with these skills, a child may not open up and may give false information; or he might as well not say anything," she explained.

To this effect, Munthali commended organizations such as Plan Malawi and Livingstonia Synod's Church and Society Programme for partnering with the court to establish mother groups and community courts.

She said the mother groups and community courts have assisted in making the court visible to communities.

"For example, since we started operating village courts (where court sits in the victim's community), we have discovered that more people are appreciating our role by seeking our services.

"In court sitting days, we also get an opportunity to interact with communities as one way of lobbying them into trusting the court to help them provide justice," she said.

Traditional Authority (T/A) Mtwalo, whose area is within the scope of the project said the mobile courts are making justice prevail since previously witnesses were failing to testify due to long distance.

"You know, it is very expensive to transport witnesses to Mzuzu court when one has a case; but now with the aid of the mobile courts every process of justice is going on smoothly.

Siphiwe Jere, a resident in one of the benefiting areas confessed that she did not know that there was a court for children until she attended one of the court's sittings in Kampingo Sibande's area.

"I only knew about the ordinary court and it was a surprise for me to learn of this special court for children.

"Now I know where to get assistance should any of my children be victimized," she said.

Plan Malawi Public Relations Officer, Atusaye Nyondo said the mobile court project, which has been running since 2013, was designed to address increased cases of girl child abuse in the areas of T/A Mtwalo and Kampingo Sibande in Mzimba District, among other remedies.

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