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Holding gender-based violence beast by horns

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By William Khalipwina Mpina, Contributor:

AGAINST VIOLENCE— Kwataine

When a report indicated in 2013 that Africa was leading in registering gender-based violence (GBV) cases, Malawians might have thought such cases were rampant across the borders.

But, as experience has shown, that perception is a million miles away from the truth.

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The truth is that, when it comes to the perpetuation of GBV, Malawi is no better than other countries.

Just in December last year, the Malawi Police Service indicated that its victim support units had registered over 26,000 cases of GBV in 2018 alone.

National Police Victim Support Coordinator, Patricia Njawiri, attributes the surge in reported GBV cases to increased awareness spearheaded by government and civil society organisations that are promoting the cause of gender equality.

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Njawiri goes on, offering Malawians examples of faces GBV wears in the country.

“In 2018 alone, we registered over 26,000 GBV cases through our victim support units across the country. The major forms were sexual violence against girls, physical violence, especially spouse battering. These are the most rampant forms of violence we registered,” Njawiri said.

Coming five years after international organisations announced, in a report, that African countries have been registering some of the highest levels of physical and sexual violence against women in the world, there are no encouraging signs for women who are seeking peace of mind.

The report was a product of collaboration among London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, World Health Organisation and the South Africa Medical Research Council.

The report indicates that about 45.6 percent of women in Africa have experienced physical and sexual violence, compared to 35 percent globally.

It reveales that, globally, women who experienced violence with their intimate or non-partners are twice as likely to be depressed, have alcohol related problems, and have HIV and a sexually transmitted disease.

Other health problems linked to violence are unwanted pregnancies, abortion and low birth-weight babies.

The report finds that 38 percent of women killed globally are murdered by their intimate partners.

Fortunately for Malawi, there are partners willing to help citizens stem the tide of GBV cases.

For instance, ActionAid Malawi has reiterated its commitment to ensuring that there is no room for GBV in the country.

ActionAid Malawi Women’s Rights Manager, Chikumbutso Ndaferankhande, cites introduction of the #Ndiulula Campaign – a joint national advocacy campaign premised reducing cases of violence and harassment in workplaces.

“Through this campaign, we would like to give power to people who feel disempowered to come out and report issues of violence, especially sexual violence, in the workplace,” she says.

This is a timely intervention, considering that the Malawi Demographic and Health Survey 2015/16 indicates that one-third of women have ever experienced physical violence since the age of 15 years, one in five women have ever experienced sexual violence and more than four in 10 married women have experienced spousal violence, whether physical or sexual or emotional.

In 2017, the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare reported that, in addition to having experienced violence, 49 percent of women have not accessed GBV-related support resources, which is quite alarming.

There are several factors that contribute to the marginalisation of women, among them gender inequality and violent childhood experiences.

Additionally, the tendency of linking masculinity to provider role have negatively impacted women such that, regardless of their level of education, they feel unsafe.

In a bid to reduce cases of GBV, Drug Fight Malawi has joined those who have pulled resources to fight GBV by, among other things, sensitising people to how they can contribute to efforts aimed at preventing the situation from getting out of hand.

Drug Fight Malawi Executive Director, Nelson Zakeyu, said recently in Ntcheu District during a stakeholders meeting that collective power can be used to reduce the number of cases related to GBV.

“Drug Fight Malawi is a legally registered local Malawian NGO, which runs several projects to raise an awareness on gender-based violence in the workplace and champion activities against alcohol consumption, tobacco smoking and drug abuse. Our belief is that preventing gender-based violence should begin with a shift in focus from seeing women and other groups exposed to gender-based violence as victims to seeing them as survivors, actors and agents of change with a strong focus on women and girls’ empowerment,” Mateyu says.

Drug Fight Malawi started a two-year education programme in 2006, raising awareness on alcohol consumption in Lilongwe urban and rural. It targeted youths in and out of school.

Drug Fight Malawi Senior Projects Officer, Kulimbamtima Portia Chiotcha, says GBV cases are preventable.

“Gender-based violence is founded in gender-based power inequalities and gender-based discrimination that, in essence, are a violation of human rights.

“To make matters worse, GBV is a global health issue that cuts across boundaries of economic wealth, culture, religion, age and sexual orientation,” she said.

Senior Chief Makwangwala hails Drug Fight Malawi for joining the fight against GBV, adding that sensitisation campaigns would help people realise that ignorance is not a defence in a court of law.

“People must know that issues of gender-based violence are punishable by law and need to be looked into with a critical eye,” Makwangwala says.

Senior Chief Kwataine, also of Ntcheu, has been coming hard on those who tolerate GBV.

With such sentiments emanating from traditional leaders, it can as well be said that GBV perpetrators’ days are numbered

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