Adolescents in Nkhatabay petition the district commission on GBV prevailing issues

Nkhatabay District is one of the six districts who are beneficiaries of the Spotlight Initiative as such some strides have been made in the fight against GBV and SGBVs in the district. A number of interventions have taken place in the districts especially targeting women and girls in the fight against GBVs and SGBVs.

Nkhatabay EMIS on enrollment and dropout rate shows that many adolescents have access to education in the district and also in the traditional authorities where the SI project is being implemented BUT the dropout rate for the district is relatively high at an average value of 2.8% (Male 2.5%, Female 3.1%), an indication that dropout rate for girls is persistently higher than that of boys. Analysis of the selected schools shows that the schools that are in remote areas have a relatively higher dropout rate than those schools that are closer to townships or to the district council.  An analysis of the dropout rate in the district shows that, out of 19 Education Zones in Nkhatabay, the four zones in TA Timbiri contribute 33% of all adolescent girl dropout in schools.

In the period of January to June 2022, 507 GBV cases were reported, of which, 336 (86%) were against females and 71(14%) were against males. Improved GBV/SGBV Case reporting is also an area that can assist to end GBV, only 32% of the female cases referred only 28% of them reported. During the same period CVSU reported 272 cases 64% of the cases reported to police, 4% to social welfare, 13% reported to the health facility, with only 9% of those cases referred to court.

The data above shows that although cases are being reported to some referral facility, most cases are not resolved as witnesses differ provision of evidence, this justifies the culture of keeping quiet, hiding cases and trying to settle them out of court. Child marriage usually forced in by parents due to pregnancy or lack of parental responsibility also rates high as 76% of the SGBV reported in the month of May were child marriage. Traditional Authority Timbiri is not spared from these challenges. A survey conducted by the Social Welfare Department in the months from January to May of 2022 established that from 23 households in T/A Timbiri identified 12 cases of GBV and 33% of those cases recorded sexual exploitation and abuse affecting adolescent girls which were dismissed and the cases closed.

PACHI under the Spotlight Initiative with funding from UNICEF is leading the fight among adolescent boys and girls using an advocacy and social accountability model called IFENSO. The project has given adolescent boys and girls a platform for them to take up the fight of GBV and SGBVs in their area. Through sensitization meetings, arts, social accountability interface meetings, the adolescents in 41 schools from 6 traditional authorities have championed the adolescent participation in the initiative. In spite of the many efforts by these adolescents, both in school and out of school, T/A Timbiri has still been lagging behind in this fight such that a number of GBV and SGBV issues are still prevalent in the area.

In the months of April, May and June, TA Timbiri registered 13 cases of teenage pregnancy, 14 cases of child marriages, 16 cases of family neglect and 21 cases of child neglect among others.  These issues were facilitated by cultural norms (Kukuwa Umwali, Chimbulu) and social norms (mkwato).

Additionally, in Nkhatabay adolescent girls ( as young as 10 -17 years)  are allowed to patronize drinking places in trading centres and at the beach  against the Malawi  laws  for instance Chikale beach has children almost every weekend from evening till midnight or dawn. Adolescent girls are exposed to drug and substance abuse and in the long run sex abuse

The Maswaswa Ifenso took a step further organizing a march to bring attention to the duty bearers on these issues that are affecting adolescents in the district and precisely contributing to school drop out.

Adolescents on their way to deliver petition

In her remarks the chair for Mswaswa Ifenso Mazala Chirambo had this to say “After noting that the situation has not improved in the area despite all their efforts, engaging traditional leaders, we decided to organize a March to petition the District Commissioner to act on the GBV/SGBV and child protection issues that are taking place in the area and push for approval of bylaws which protect women and girls”

The march involved 117 adolescents from Maswaswa Community Ifenso and Mpamba Primary, Pundu Primary, Pundu CDSS Ifenso platforms.

Director Of Education and Sports Muhawi Chivunga received the petition on behalf of the district commissioner and assured the adolescents that the issues outlined in the petition will be presented and feedback will be shared within the shortest period.

Director of Education receiving a petition

Maswaswa Ifenso is an out of school platform that was born from within the Maswaswa Youth Club under the TA Timbiri Youth Network. The Ifenso has conducted a number of sensitization meetings and interface meetings within TA Timbiri in schools and communities. They have gone further to orient 11 youth clubs and 6 functional literacy centres on GBVs and SGBVs within TA Timbiri. In addition to this, they have managed to compliment community policing efforts by conducting dialogue sessions with sex workers to facilitate the withdrawal of teenage girls from bars and nightclubs.