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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.

KARONGA DIOCESE CCJP TRAINS IT’S MONITORS AHEAD OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT BY-ELECTIONS

In the heart of democracy lies the power of choice and ensuring that democracy maintains its purpose is a task of paramount importance. On Friday 22 March, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) organized a training session at St. Mary’s parish hall aimed at fortifying the integrity of the electoral process.

Vincent Bwinga of CCJP addressing the monitors.

The Vicar General of the Karonga Diocese Monsignor Lorent Dziko was also present at the session and advised the participants stating that “there is need for the CCJP monitors to be non-partisan as the church herself is also non-partisan to ensure that the electoral process is free and fair”. He also advised them to perform only those duties that they are supposed to perform and not do things that they are not assigned.

During the training, participants were equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their duties effectively and they were taught the proper methodology of observation. The session also involved trainings that are meant to prepare the monitors for real-life scenarios they might encounter.

Karonga Diocese Vicar General Monsignor Lorent Dziko addressing the monitors.

One of the participants Teresa Chisenga applauded the training saying that, “it is beneficial to us as we have learnt how to be good observers and also how we can interact with other stakeholders of the electoral process”.

CCJP is deploying 44 observers in 44 Polling Centers for Tuesday 26 March Local Government by-elections in Karonga district. These by-elections are taking place in Kaporo, Chilanga and Rukuru wards and these wards were declared vacant in September 2023 after councilors from these wards were convicted.

By Noel Chatepa

Some-of-the-participants-during-PETS-findings-dissemination-session
PET conducted at Hara Maternity wing

By Lestina Sanga

‘Public resources need to be well accounted for’, Mr Msukwa, the Karonga District Council Finance Committee Chairperson. This was stated in his speech during Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) dissemination for the Construction of Hara maternity wing at Chankholombe School.

the PET dissemination was organised by the Justice and Peace Desk of Karonga Diocese under the Project OSISA Health Governance. under this project, the Desk has managed to empower community members to following up on expenditures as well as projects done using resources from public funding baskets. the desk has volunteers known as the Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) Focal Team, who spearhead the tracking system and empower others. the purpose of the PET process is to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the management of funds in the Health Sector.

Some-of-the-participants-during-PETS-findings-dissemination-session
Some of the participants during PETS findings dissemination session

Hara Maternity Wing was constructed using Community Managed Social Economic Fund. By design is the project under the fund is supposed to be managed by the community members, who receive training and technical guidance from the district councils relevant officers. However, Hara Maternity wing was constructed with no monitoring and supervision from the Council, the committees chosen did not have enough training, which affected the management of the contract with the Contractor and procurement of building materials problematic.

From the PET conducted, an amount of about MK 65,000 was misappropriated, including other already procured materials. It was also revealed by the Project Implementation team that MK 500,000 was taken forcefully by the contractor.

On way forward it was recommended that there should be New Project Management team to continue the project when funds are mobilized, the one present was doubled as the Health Center Management Committee and Project Implementation Team. so the project lacked local oversight and monitoring.

CALGA Project Coordinator Vincent Bwinga stressing a point during the orientation
CAG Members Reveal Gaps in the Implementation of Development Projects

By Vincent Bwinga

Community Action Group (CAG) members from Lupembe and Mbande ADC have expressed concern that guidelines for development projects under Constituency Development Fund, District Development Fund, and Local Development Funds are not being followed in the implementation of projects.

CALGA Project Coordinator Vincent Bwinga stressing a point during the orientation
CALGA Project Coordinator Vincent Bwinga stressing a point during the orientation

Speaking during the orientation workshop at Club Marina in Karonga, on 11 September 2018, Gilbert Msukwa said they were amazed why implementers of local development projects choose not to follow the guidelines which are very clear.

He cited CDF guidelines which demand for members of parliament to engage Area Development Committees (ADCs) and councilors, in identification of projects with reference to the District Development Plan, which is not the case in his area.

“Projects are implemented without project implementation committees (PICs) and funds are being managed as personal funds. This is a direct contrast to what is outlined in the guidelines,” said Msukwa.

Also commenting during the workshop, Mercy Ndovie said the district council gets 5% from funds allocated to District Development Funds for monitoring among others but projects are not being visited. She questioned how the 5% money is being spent.

“DDF projects are not being supervised which leads to poor quality and others remain incomplete for years,” said Mercy Ndovie.

Community Action Group members hailed the Justice and Peace Desk of Karonga Diocese for coming up with Citizen Action in Local Government Accountability (CALGA) project which they said has equipped them on how they can monitor and track public resources.

CAG members promised to intensify community awareness on local development resources guidelines and demand for transparency and accountability where necessary.

CALGA project is being implemented by the Justice and Peace Desk of Karonga Diocese in Karonga and Chitipa districts with funding from Irish Government through Danish Church Aid.

Justice and Peace Desk Prepares Female Aspirants for 2019 Elections

By Elliness Mbowe and Vincent Bwinga

The Justice and Peace Desk of Karonga Diocese on 31st August, 2018 conducted a training workshop for women aspirants from different political parties and independent candidate in Karonga District in preparation for 2019 tripartite elections.

Women aspirants from Karonga District with their facilitators
Women aspirants from Karonga District with their facilitators

The training sought to increase women’s chances of winning in the forthcoming elections against the background of poor representation of women in political positions. For instance, Karonga District has only one female councillor out of 10 ward councilors. There is also no female Member of Parliament in the area under Karonga Diocese.

This state of affairs has been attributed to women’s limited understanding of political tactics, intricacies of political parties they represent. Despite the Gender Equality Act and other instruments, there is lack of deliberate measures by government or political parties to promote the participation of women in politics.

Victoria Msowoya an entrepreneur sharing her experience during the training
Victoria Msowoya an entrepreneur sharing her experience during the training

The training, therefore, focused on assisting women aspirants on mobilizing resources for campaign, effective campaign strategies, presentation skills, self-marketing during campaign. The women were also assisted to understand the electoral cycle of the country.

This instilled confidence, and self-reliance among women as they are approaching campaign period for 2019 May tripartite elections.

Speaking during the training, Tamala Mujilembe from Khwaba Ward who is representing DEPECO said the training has motivated them to continue with an idea of representing their wards at the council.

“We are being discouraged by men in our villages that we can’t represent them. With this training we are motivated and empowered that we are all equal. We are not going to be discouraged by all insults. We will remain focused until we achieve our goal,” Said Tamala.

Tamala Mujilembe further commended Justice and Peace Desk of the Diocese of Karonga for the training which was organized with funding from UN Women under the Malawi Electoral Cycle Support project. She expressed optimism that they will succeed in the forthcoming elections.

The women aspirants bemoaned the handout syndrome, which is deeply rooted in their communities, as a big threat for them to succeed in the upcoming elections. They have since requested more support from the Justice and Peace Desk for them to withstand the pressure of elections.

Fifteen out of twenty one women aspirants scouted attended the training. Twenty are aspiring councilors while one is vying for the seat of Member of Parliament for Nyungwe Constituency. These women were scouted from Area Development Committees, political parties, chiefs and women meetings.

File photo: Mr Louis Nkhata facilitating in an extractive governance training
Karonga CSOs to Advocate for the Adoption of FPIC Policy

By Vincent Bwinga (Justice and Peace)

Civil Society Organizations in Karonga have expressed their commitment to advocate for an enabling domestic policy and legal framework that will see the enforcement and adoption of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) policy for community rights in Extractive Industries.

File photo: Mr Louis Nkhata facilitating in an extractive governance training
File photo: Mr Louis Nkhata facilitating in an extractive governance training

The CSOs made this commitment during a three day long training organized by the Justice and Peace Desk of the Diocese of Karonga at Beach Chamber in Karomga.

The training highlighted that lack of enabling domestic policy/ legal environment to enforce FPIC in Extractive Industries leaves communities at the mercy of investors in the sector. This gap gives investors freedom to disregard concerns of communities where they operate in. Communities are rarely engaged and as such community members do not benefit from the natural resources extracted from their own villages.

Further, the training stressed that the mining database is inaccessible putting transparency and accountability in the sector into question. For instance, there are over five active mining licenses and more than ten prospective licenses in Karonga but people do not have access to this information and are not engaged I decision making so that they also benefit from mining.

The CSOs, therefore, resolved to advocate for consolidated database of mining licenses and  enabling domestic policy/ legal environment for enforcing FPIC through a position paper and other forums so that community members may also start benefiting from the sector.

Speaking during the training, Reverend Father Leslie Mtekateka said Civil Society Organizations in Karonga have spoken enough on Extractive Industries with little success as communities are yet to benefit from their natural resources.

Among other factors, he said this is because community members themselves say nothing in the midst of exploitative mining activities. Father Mtekateka, therefore, recommended more capacity building for traditional leaders and community members to demand meaningful engagement in decision making.

Fifteen Civil Society Organizations working in Karonga attended training. The training was coordinated by Justice and Peace of Karonga Diocese with financial support from Australian Aid through Oxfam in Malawi on Inclusive and Transformative Extractive Industries in Southern Africa Project” which is being implemented in T/A Kyungu and Kilupla in Karonga.