Winston Phinifolo, 29, waded through a legion of women and girls who had gathered at Ntchisi Boma and took to the podium to recount the violence he suffered at the hands of his wife.
“I am one of the victims. Recently, I had a small misunderstanding with my wife but before marriage counsellors could reconcile us, she had already vacated our matrimonial house, having swept every valuable item from the house,” he narrated.
His timing could not have been any better; the reason for this gathering at Ntchisi Boma is to sensitise communities on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and as it turns out, among them is a living example.
Phinifolo, who comes from Zenera Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Kalumo in Ntchisi, lamented that although violence has been an endemic problem in Ntchisi, there has been little effort by the government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to address the vice.
“There are so many of us, husbands, who suffer various forms of violence at the hands of our wives yet we don’t get support. At police stations, husbands that report the violence suffer ridicule. If we are serious, as a country, to address GBV, then the government and NGOs must start providing equal treatment to victims of violence without considering their gender,” he emphasised.
Phinifolo’s testimony is in sharp contrast to the long-held notion that men are the major reason behind violence against women due to customs that assume male superiority.
Over the years, the government and its development partners have taken important steps towards addressing GBV, recognising its detrimental impact on citizens and the progress of the country.
However, Malawi is one of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where research on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) has largely failed to consider men’s experiences as victims by female perpetrators – particularly within ongoing heterosexual relationships such as marriage.
The 2014 – 2020 National Plan of Action to Combat Gender-Based Violence in Malawi exposes that although several large nationally representative surveys on GBV have been conducted, data collection is largely insufficient.
And this has adversely affected the ability of policymakers in improving planning and decision making for GBV prevention and responses and to allocate scarce resources strategically and rationally to achieve the greatest impact.
According to the National Plan of Action, the main problem is the lack of a GBV data collection and management system that defines the kind of data to be collected and how this data will be managed.
“The situation is compounded by the lack of appropriate standardised data collection tools and the duplication of data from the various duty bearers (e.g. the police, the judiciary and one stop centres) and stakeholders. Currently, the few institutions engaged in GBV prevention interventions have their individualized data collection tools which make data analysis cumbersome,” it reports.
The United Nations (UN) ranks Malawi 145 out of 188 on the Gender Inequality Index (GII), reflecting high levels of inequality in reproductive health, women’s empowerment, and economic activity.
Additionally, violence against women and girls and harmful practices remain serious, also, the country has a lot to do in terms of women empowerment.
UN Resident Coordinator for Malawi, Maria Jose Torres, emphasised that eliminating violence is not just an issue of rights and access to justice but also an accelerator of the development agenda for Malawi.
Torres said denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds a nation back.
“There is increasing recognition that violence against women is a major barrier to the fulfillment of human rights and a direct challenge to women’s inclusion and participation in sustainable development and sustaining peace,” she explained.
Luntha Television in collaboration with Women Legal Resources Centre (Wolrec) have meanwhile been conducting an anti-GBV sensitisation campaign in Mangochi, Ntchisi and 12 other districts under the Media Voices for Inclusive Development and Reduced Inequality Project.
The project, which is being funded by the Norwegian Aid for Development Cooperation (Norad) through the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), is aimed at addressing the challenge of inequality and GBV by utilising media platforms to amplify the voice of the voiceless and demand transparency and accountability in the public services and interventions against all forms of violence against women, men and children.
The station’s director, David Niwagaba, said while Wolrec sensitizes communities around Traditional Authorities (T/As) Chilooko and Kalumo, Luntha Television is providing coverage of the activities so that the project can benefit a lot of people.
“The project has been designed to urgently respond to the unfair distribution of the country’s endowments, which has led to widening of the inequality gap and the consistent prevalence and high level of non-disclosure or non-reporting of incidences of GBV with particular reference to women and children,” he said.
Phinifolo commended the station for initiating the project. He however pleaded with the institution to consider adopting a holistic approach to the problem.
“Our experience has shown that the government and NGOs give priority to women alone in all their interventions. Men have largely been targeted as perpetrators of violence in all these interventions, a development that has led men to suffer in silence,” he stated.
Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati, said government recognises the problem of GBV and acknowledges its impact on vulnerable groups, gender equality, and poverty reduction efforts.
“But government alone cannot do everything. Hence, we commend the efforts by Luntha Television and its partners to address the problem,” she said.
She assured that government is committed to preventing and responding to GBV through a variety of actions including laws, policies, international commitments, programmes and services.