Malawi a Beacon of Hope in Battle Against Gender Violence

AT a time the abuse of women and children reach crisis levels in the region and beyond, Malawi has come out as an exception.

Breakthroughs follow high levels of prosecution and justice for victims as well as the annulment of child marriages.

The success stories in the northern Mzimba and central Ntchisi are the culmination of commitments by the government and non-governmental organisations to a global programme focused on eliminating violence against women and girls, including sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices.

It is tagged the Spotlight Initiative, with its success in Malawi coinciding with struggles by some countries in the region to tackle the problem.

The Spotlight Initiative in Mzimba has seen authorities handling about 70 gender-based violence during the period under review- December 2018 and February 2019.

More than 50 cases have been completed.

Various penalties have been meted against perpetrators.

In six other cases, girls who were married off early had their marriages annulled and they are now back in school.

Following the success of the pilot programme in Mzimba and Ntchisi, government and stakeholders plan to extend the Spotlight Initiative to other parts of the Southern African country.

Mercy Safalawo, Director of Gender Affairs Department in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, reiterated Malawi government's commitment towards the elimination of violence against women and girls.

She said some citizens were oblivious of the rights of women and girls.

"We must ensure that people understand that men and women are equal. Violence against women is unacceptable," Safalawo said.

Key stakeholders have made a commitment to strengthen partnerships to ensure the enjoyment of rights by children and women.

Maria Jose Torres, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, called on men and boys to offer their support to campaigns aimed at eradicating gender-based violence.

"We cannot just engage girls and women alone. Boys and men also need to take part in having and encouraging positive attitudes towards women and girls," the UN envoy stated.

Malawi is among 13 countries globally and eight countries in Africa selected to receive part of the global grant of €500 million from the European Union (EU) to implement the Spotlight Initiative.

Besides Mzimba and Ntchisi, the initiative is to be implemented in the Nkhata Bay, Dowa, Machinga and Nsanje districts in phases.

Malawi is among 13 countries globally and eight countries in Africa selected to receive part of the global grant of €500 million from the EU to implement the Spotlight Initiative.

Virginie Lafleur-Tighe, team leader for Social Sectors and Infrastructure at the delegation of the EU, implied a link between gender-based violence.

"As long as women are not fully empowered to [achieve] their full potential, develop themselves and have their rights respected, there can't be any development," Lafleur-Tighe said.

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