Global women’s health organisation, EngenderHealth, has challenged traditional leaders in the country to be active participants and promoters of change in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the country.
EngenderHealth Malawi director Sarai Chisala-Tempelhoff said as custodians
of cultural, traditional and social norms, chiefs could play a vital role in addressing practices that trigger and/or perpetuate SGBV in their respective communities.
Chisala-Tempelhoff made the remarks at the Chewa traditional leaders
seminar on ending GBV, which took place at Mponela in Dowa on Wednesday.
She stressed that if Malawi is to achieve its economic, social and development goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, individuals, government and civil society need to build a more gender equitable society with healthier gender roles for women and men.
Chisala-Tempelhoff said to be effective, the strategies must not only empower women, but also should engage men and bring about significant changes in men’s attitudes and practices, which are often discouraged by negative notions of masculinity.
“It is common among many communities for women and children to be subjected
to gender-based violence and other forms of violence which include, harassment and harmful traditional practices. Traditional leaders are therefore vital in advocating, championing and addressing GBV through social norms change,” she said.
“It is along that perspective that EngenderHealth, with support from the United States Department of State, has collaborated with the Chewa Heritage Foundation to engage traditional leaders on ending GBV in Chewa communities. This underscores the importance of mobilising all the Chewa chiefs to take action in strengthening GBV prevention and response interventions in their jurisdiction areas,” Chisala-Tempelhoff added.
Senior Chief Dzoole said SGBV are endemic in the Chewa society. He therefore thanked EngenderHealth for taking steps to address the problem through engagement with traditional leaders.
“We are excited to collaborate with EngenderHealth to address the vice in
our communities,” Dzoole said.
Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare principal gender and development officer Chimwemwe Grace Kussein said government has formulated many gender programmes and policies which need active involvement of chiefs for people to understand them.