Mzimba — Government in collaboration with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have embarked on a new multi-year programme called "Spotlight Initiative" focused on eliminating violence against women and girls, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and harmful practices.
The CSOs include the United Nations (UN) Women, United Nations sexual and reproductive Health Agency (UNFPA), UNICEF, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and European Union (EU) among others.
UNDP Resident Representative, Shigeki Komatsubara made the remarks on Thursday when he visited one of the intervention implementation area in Traditional Authority (TA) Mzukuzuku in Mzimba.
He said the initiative will support targeted large-scale investments aimed at achieving significant impact in the lives of women and girls in Nkhata Bay, Mzimba, Ntchisi, Dowa, Machinga and Nsanje districts in phases.
"We promote 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," he said.
He added that the program includes a comprehensive prevention strategy that addresses structural issues and linkages to sexual and reproductive health rights and HIV and Aids.
The program is built around six inter-connected and mutually-reinforcing pillars focusing on laws and policies, institutions, prevention and social norms, services, data, and women's rights movement-driving innovation and transformative programming to end violence.
Mzimba District Gender Officer, Japhet Chirwa said Survivors are able to access services because they have information and support.
He added that victims and their witnesses were provided with financial support for transportation, food and medical attention.
"Sixty-seven cases have been handled since the start of the quick wins out which 51 have been completed, five have been withdrawn and 11 are being followed up.
"Three cases reached the court and the perpetrators were brought to justice six children have been withdrawn from marriages and re-enrolled back to school," Chirwa said.
UNFPA deputy representative, Masaki Watabe said the spotlight quick wins led to reopening of a defilement case that happened in 2014 and the perpetrator was finally brought to justice.
"The project led to empowerment of women in sharing their situation in their homes through mentorship groups," he said.
TA Mzukuzuku said through male champions, most men are taking more interest in fighting for women and girls rights and also through mentors and sister to sister groups, six children have been withdrawn from marriages and sent back to school.
He added that there is a positive change in perception towards some cultural practices in the community such as chasing widows (Chokolo), puberty initiation ceremonies and wife inheritance.