The UN’s 16 Days of Activism is raising awareness and challenging gender-based violence (GBV) globally.
Gender-based violence, and in particular violence against women, is a problem in all countries, including in the developing world. As a result of Covid-19 lockdowns, there has been an increase in GBV related incidents.
GOAL teams are tackling violence against women across 14 countries. One of the most successful programs has been in Malawi.
Malawi experiences a very high level of gender-based violence with a number of cultural practices contributing to the problem:
- Wife inheritance (chokolo), where a widow marries a brother or uncle of the deceased husband.
- Arranged marriages for children, which can include human trafficking.
- Sexual death cleansing (a widow sleeps with another man without her will/consent to cast out death spell).
- Young girls forced into initiation ceremonies called ‘fisi’. The ceremony obliges young girls to sleep with a man as a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.
The spotlight program, funded by the United Nations Population Fund Agency (UNPFA), began in April 2020 and supports younger women who are the victims of gender-based violence. The program focuses on a mentoring approach, ensuring women have a safe place to discuss their experiences and learn about the help available to them. So far the program has reached over 2,500 young girls across six districts of Malawi.
In addition to preventing violence, the spotlight program also seeks to educate and protect women’s sexual and reproductive health.
As GBV is often deemed a cultural practice, simply enforcing laws against violence is not enough. Educating people on their rights and the help available is the most sustainable way to bring about deep behavioral change to protect women.
The mentors involved in the Spotlight program are fully trained by GOAL and its partners. Some have their own experiences of GBV, and all are dedicated to sensitively and professionally helping those in need. The mentors and mentees meet as a group to share their experiences and learn from one another. This is a hugely important part of the programme as it creates a safe space and a sense of community. It also allows those involved to know they are not alone. Some of the mentees are young women who can seek refuge in the company of the older women involved in the project.
GOAL has provided 90 push bikes to empower women involved in the project, allowing them to independently travel to the session. As a result, participants do not need to rely on family members to access help.
To find out more on the 16 Days of Activism and see how you can help end GBV visit www.unwomen.org.