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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.

“BISHOPS PEACE TROPHY: ADDRESSING VIOLENT CONFLICTS THROUGH FOOTBALL”

By Triphornia Mtawali

The Karonga Diocese has inaugurated the Bishop’s Peace Trophy at Kiwe ground, with the aim of combating the tragic occurrences of innocent individuals being killed as a result of accusations related to witchcraft.

In a speech delivered by Monsignor Laurent Dziko on behalf of Bishop Martin Mtumbuka, the significance of engaging the youth in productive activities through the trophy was underscored as a primary objective.

Bishop Mtumbuka conveyed profound concern regarding the recent brutal murder of Jiness Nakalagho from Mwakasoko Village, PGVH Mwangulukulu, under Senior Chief Mwakaboko, emphasizing the pressing need to address such atrocities despite the long-standing presence of the Catholic Church in the region.

Senior Superintendent Chrissy Mwale, the Officer in Charge for Kaporo Police, commended the Diocese for this initiative, foreseeing it as a mechanism to empower the youth and deter violence.

Monsignor Lorent Dziko(In blue suit) greeting the players followed by Chief Kilipula(black suit), Pastoral Secretary Fr. Robert Songa(stripped football jersey) and Caritas Secretary Mwawi Shaba (in grey golf shirt).

Senior Chief Kilupula, in a separate interview expressed appreciation to the Bishop for the trophy, acknowledging it as a crucial step towards putting an end to the prevailing violence in the district.

KARONGA DIOCESE COMMUNITY TRANSFORMATION (WASH) FIELD DAY PICTORIAL FOCUS

Karonga Diocese Community Transformation (WASH) beneficiaries in Jalawe, Chankholombe and Kopakopa had field day visits to performing households to different houses in their respective areas to appreciate WASH facilities. The Coordinator for Karonga Diocese Community Transformation (WASH) Duncan Nyirenda led the visits and also re-oriented the beneficiaries on WASH guidelines and standards. Below are some of the pictures from the field days.

“FIGHTING AGAINST MALNUTRITION: CT FOOD AND NUTRITION COOKING DEMONSTRATIONS PROMOTE HEALTHY COOKING IN COMMUNITIES”

In Malawi, access to information about nutrition is limited and the Karonga Diocese is one of the organizations on the forefront seeking to end this through its Community Transformation (CT) Project which has food and nutrition as one of its components. In this spirit, Karonga Diocese CT (Food and Nutrition) conducted cooking demonstrations in the areas of Jalawe, Chankholombe and Kopakopa which were meant to impart knowledge to its beneficiaries about the 6 groups of foods and how to cook different foods that are nutritious.

Asimenye Fumbo from Kopakopa Village cooking a meal during the demonstrations.

The cooking demonstrations were conducted by Karonga Diocese CT(Food and Nutrition) Coordinator Grace Kondowe and the training’s began with a simple Question and Answer session to refresh the participants on the 6 healthy food groups and food preservation methods. Thereafter the participants were taught recipes that they can cook with locally sourced materials and conducted practical cooking exercises under the supervision of the CT-Food and Nutrition Coordinator and volunteers.

Some of the dishes prepared during the cooking demonstrations.

“The main purpose of the training is to equip the beneficiaries with skills on how they can diversify meals and foods using locally available six food groups and how to preserve food materials that they may be available even when such foods are not in season. We encourage the people to use locally available food materials that are grown and found in the village to create the meals,” said Grace.

Some of the women cooking during the demonstration.

CT Food and Nutrition is part of the Community Transformation Project which is being implemented by the Karonga Diocese with assistance from Cross Catholic Outreach in the areas of Village Heads Jalawe, Chankholombe and Kopakopa. The materials used during the cooking demonstrations were sourced by the beneficiaries in their respective areas.

CT-NUTRITION FOR HEALTHY FAMILIES

“Our families have improved a lot since the introduction of the project and we have learnt how to prepare meals that contain all six food groups making our families healthier and happier”, says Christina Harawa (53) a mother of 5 from Mulyabweka Village, T/A Chankholombe. She is one of the 1,528 beneficiaries in the Community Transformation project which the Karonga Diocese is implementing with assistance from Cross Catholic Outreach.

Christina presenting to fellow beneficiaries gathered at Chankholombe about the 6 food groups while Karonga Diocese Community Transformation Food and Nutrition Coordinator Grace Kondowe (seated) and two other beneficiaries look on.

Christina went on to further state that “We never used to know about the six food groups and as a result our families used to be malnourished, however, through the project we have gained knowledge, and we are very grateful to the Diocese for this project which has impacted our families in a positive way”.

Locally sourced foods of the 6 healthy food groups in Chankholombe on display at a food fair.

Community Transformation Project volunteer for Chankholombe area Fyness Msukwa states that she has seen changes in her community since the introduction of the project. “The community is more hygienic and healthier since the introduction of the project as we used to have different foods available in the community but did not know how to prepare them correctly for them to contain all six food groups. Our children used to get sick regularly because of malnutrition and poor hygiene but with the project, our children are healthier, and I advise fellow beneficiaries in the project to follow the instructions given to us by the project officers in-order to fully benefit from the project” she said.

Some of the 1,528 beneficiaries of the Community Transformation project gathered at Chankholombe.
COMBATING GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE IN KARONGA DISTRICT

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace Desk of Karonga Diocese has successfully engaged various religious leaders and male advocates in discussions on how to eradicate gender-based violence through the Timazge Nkhaza project in Karonga district.

In his address, CCJP Officer Hope Mlenga implored religious leaders and male champions to take an active role in ending gender-based violence as a means of reducing the number of cases in the district that adversely affect households and lead to immoral behaviour.

During the meeting, Chairperson of pastors fraternal Rev Msowoya identified culture as a contributing factor to gender-based violence across different areas within Karonga.

It is imperative for religious leaders, GVHs, and stakeholders to join forces in fighting gender-based violence by altering people’s cultural mindsets since some individuals’ upbringing prohibits their involvement in any type of activity, especially women.

Religious Leaders

Sheikh Bilali commented on this matter by encouraging people to embrace love between men and women so as to reduce instances of gender-based violence.

In a separate interview the chairman of zinc Rev Whyman Gondwe said with the coming in of the project, it will take efforts for them as male champions to lead people to change basically on gender-based violence so that men and women should be treated equally.

By Wantwa Mwakasungula,

Tuntufye FM.