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Archives May 2024

COMMUNITIES URGED TO REPORT GENDER BASED VIOLENCE THROUGH SUGGESTION BOXES

By Lusungu Mzembe – TFM

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) under Karonga Diocese through the Timazge Nkhaza Project has urged community members of Karonga district to report gender-based violence issues through the suggestion boxes that have been placed at various institutions in the district.

In an interview with Vincent Bwinga the project coordinator, he said that a lot of people fail to report directly to the authorities when they encounter gender-based violence in their communities as they are afraid of risking their lives, as such the organization has distributed suggestion boxes so that people should express their issues without any hindrances.

“We saw that many people in various communities are at risk and sometimes discriminated when they have reported issues of violence to the authorities as such, we believe that through these suggestion boxes a lot of them will report the abuse they face hence on the other hand we are trying to reduce cases of gender-based violence in the district,” Bwinga said.

Bwinga said the suggestion box will also help them to come up with a proper solution in implementing their project as they will be able to identify gender-based issues that are affecting people in the district.

Commenting on the matter the zone coordinator at Chisi area Geoffery Kawonga commended CCJP for the development saying that it will help a lot of people in the area to report cases of Gender Based Violence as they will be able to express themselves without being known to the community.

“We are very thankful for the development in our area as it will help minor groups to report when they encounter gender-based violence without the fear of being known and discriminated and we will urge community leaders, religious leaders, representatives from mother groups, community policing units, teachers and male champions to raise awareness about the use of these suggestion boxes”, Kawonga said.

CCJP Is implementing the Timazge Nkhaza project in three Traditional Authorities (T/A) of Mwakaboko, Kilupura and Kyungu with funding from the NCA-DCA Joint Country program.

Community Sensitization Campaigns by CCJP: A Stand Against Violence

In a world where ancient beliefs intersect with modern human rights, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Karonga Diocese has taken a bold step to address one of the most pressing issues which is violence against individuals accused of witchcraft. In line with this, CCJP Karonga Diocese conducted a community awareness meeting on 17th May 2024 at Ikwawo primary School in the area of Group Village Head Mwenengorongo.

CCJP Karonga Diocese’s Moses Mwakisalu addressing the community gathered at Ikwawo Primary School.

Speaking during the meeting at Ikwawo,CCJP officer Moses Mwakisalu stated that accusations of witchcraft, often targeting the most vulnerable members of society can lead to dire consequences. He also added that His Lordship Bishop Martin Mtumbuka is against all acts of violence against the elderly who usually are women hence the campaign and that Bishop considers such acts of violence as signs of illiteracy and effects of poverty. “We are setting a bad example for the coming generations, and it is very important that we stop these acts now in order to prevent them from happening to us when we get old” said Mwakisalu.

Karonga District Peace and Unity Committee vice-secretary Jane Mbowe.

The meeting was attended by different stakeholders such as GVH mwenengorongo, chiefs from the area, Songwe Police, Area Development Committee Members and a representative from the District Peace and Unity Committee. In a separate interview, Jane Mbowe who is the Vice Secretary for the District Peace and Unity Committee urged the community to actively participate in the peace building activities and advised the community against taking the law into their own hands when a person has been accused of practising witchcraft, rather they should report to the relevant authorities.

CCJP’s campaign focuses on educating communities about the dangers of such accusations and the importance of respecting human rights. Through the community meetings, and collaboration with local leaders, CCJP aims to dismantle the myths surrounding witchcraft and promote peace and justice. The campaign is an initiative by the Karonga Diocese CCJP with the aim of reducing acts of violence perpetrated against persons accused of witchcraft.

“COMMUNITY BYLAWS: ASSISTING VILLAGE DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEES IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CHILD TRAFFICKING”

“We were surprised to notice that our 16 year old daughter CR (not her real name) was not present in our household” says BR (not real name). We then started searching for her in our community that’s when we found out that she had left for Tanzania. CR’s story is one of many in the bordering districts of Malawi and Tanzania where young girls and boys are trafficked to Tanzania to work in households, shops and restaurants among others.

CR says, “I travelled to Tanzania in the beginning of 2024 after being enticed by an individual from our community that I would find a good job and would make a lot of money and I left without informing my parents. In Tunduma (Tanzania), I started work as a house-help and was not alone in the compound, there were two other underage girls with whom I used to work with”.

BR says that after finding out that she had left for Tanzania, they decided to alert the Village Development Committee (VDC) and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) volunteer ES(not real name) who then informed CCJP officer Moses Mwakisalu.

“As a VDC, we have a set of bylaws to curb child trafficking, child labour, early marriages and school dropout as were were previously encountering such problems and we were trained by CCJP on minute documentation and setting of bylaws at community level. After the training we started to sensitize the community on the bylaws we had set for the community and it was then that BR reported to us that his child CR had been trafficked to Tunduma for work”, says ES who is a CCJP volunteer.

“CCJP Officer Mwakisalu then guided us on the steps we were supposed to take and we got the phone number of the person who had taken her to Tunduma and requested that she be sent back to Malawi” says BR. He however went on to state that even though the girls are trafficked to Tanzania with the idea that they will be working in households and shops, there are rumors that a lot more than the eye sees goes on and the girls are forced to engage in promiscuous activities when they arrive in Tanzania.

CCJP officer Mwakisalu states that the problem of child trafficking is a big issue along the borderline as most of the children that are trafficked are underage and are deceived with opportunities of making a lot of money across the border. “We are making progress as the community is now following the bylaws that are set and parents are able to report when a child is suspected of being trafficked however there is need for more sensitization along the borderline on issues of child trafficking”, says Mwakisalu.

“PUBLIC EXPENDITURE TRACKING (PET): A PATH TO TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY”

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Karonga diocese conducted a Public Expenditure Tracking sensitization session on 9th May 2024 at Kangindwa Primary School on how to improve transparency and accountability in the management of School Improvement Grants (SIG) and School Development Funds.

The session was attended by Group Village Head Mwandenga, Kangindwa Parent Teachers Association representatives, the School Management Committees, Public Expenditure Tracking committee members and CCJP officers. During the session, there was a review of the schools financing and procurement processes in the form of a Question and Answer session by CCJP officers in order to get a clear picture of the transparency and accountability measures that are in place.

During the session, it was discovered that the school has set financing and procurement procedures in place that promote accountability however there is a problem of access to information on the financing and procurement processes which affects transparency. It was also discovered that in the school of 1,643 students, only 780 students paid the required MK1,000 for School Development Fund which hinders development.

“The session we had today is very beneficial as it will assist us as a committee to be more transparent and accountable if we follow all that we have been taught and we will also teach our friends in the community on benefits of contributing to the School Development Fund and also how to track our incomes and expenditure” said Steven Simfukwe who is the School Management Committee Chairperson for Kangindwa.

CCJP officer Moses Mwakisalu acknowledged that there is a great improvement at Kangindwa but highlighted that there is a great challenge of late disbursement of the School Improvement Grant which affects the learning process at the school and encouraged the School Management Committee, Parents Teachers Association and the community to work together in-order to improve transparency and accountability.

A simmilar session was conducted at Uliwa with Wasambo Community Action Group and Wasambo Public Expenditure Tracking Committee Members on 8th May 2024. The Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) is an initiative under the Fighting Inequalities Project which CCJP Karonga Diocese is implementing with support from Norwegian Church Aid and DanChurch Aid Joint Country Programme.

“EMPOWERING WOMEN: COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND GENDER EQUALITY IN ILEMA”
Jesse Kilembe (woman) together with GVH Chiwelewele (black suit, red tie) and other Ilema VDC Members inspecting the clinic under construction with other members of Ilema VDC

“My role as VDC chair has been made easy by the support of my fellow women and the introduction of the Gender and Sensibilization Project by CCJP. We have made progress as we are currently implementing several community development projects under my leadership such as the construction of a clinic and nursery schools here in Ilema to reduce the distances women and children travel to access healthcare and education services”, says Jesse Kilembe who is the chairperson for Ilema VDC.

Under Jesse’s leadership, Ilema VDC is also constructing an Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation warehouse together with neighbouring Mubanga VDC to deal with the problem of travelling long distances to Lufita to access ADMARC services. “The funds used for all the developmental activities are sourced from the community and as a committee, we make decisions on what developments to make within our community”, says Jesse.

The clinic under construction in Ilema.

“There is a huge difference in the way things are being done in the community if we compare between the times we had a male chairperson and now when we have a female Village Development Committee chairperson”, says Yasaba N’gambi who is Group Village Head Chiwelewele and also serves as the patron for Ilema Village Development Committee.

The ADMARC warehouse under construction by Ilema and Mubanga VDC’s.

“Women are more transparent in their dealings and have the best interests of the community at heart and as a result of this, our families and community has seen a great improvement since the implementation of this project. We are encouraging active participation of women in our community projects” GVH Chiwelewele further states.

Jesse Kilembe (encircled) standing next to GVH Chiwelewele (black suit, red tie) with some of Ilema VDC Committee Members in from the the clinic that is under construction.

Ilema Village Development Committee as a whole is a participant in the Gender Sensibilisation and Safeguarding Project which Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace Karonga Diocese Desk is carrying out in Chitipa District since 2022 with support from MISEREOR and the Diocese of Munster in Germany of which one of the goals is to increase participatory decision making between men and women at both household and community level.

One of the nursery schools that have been constructed by Ilema VDC.

The story of Ilema VDC serves as an inspiring example of how empowering women in leadership positions can lead to meaningful progress. Through community-driven initiatives and a commitment to gender equality, Jesse Kilembe and the Ilema VDC are shaping a brighter future for their community.