Prevention as first step in ending violence against children
Lilongwe. Malawi 2 October 2013 - On this International Day of Non-Violence, UNICEF Malawi and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare have announced the joint undertaking of a ground-breaking study on violence against children. The ‘Violence against Children and Young Women Survey’, supported by the UK’s Department for International Development, (DFID), is expected to reveal alarming numbers. In Malawi, previous data suggests that only few cases end up being reported through formal channels. Fear of stigma and taboo still refrain people from filing a complaint with the police or turning to Victim Support Units (VSU’s).
Through its global push to End Violence Now, UNICEF calls on societies to make the invisible, visible and end the culture of acceptance and tolerance. Prevention is the first step towards a violence-free society and it is the responsibility of our generation to break the cycle once and for all, the UN children’s agency states.
Earlier this year, DfID in partnership with UNICEF Malawi, opened a new Community Victim Support Unit (CVSU) in the community of Tradition Authority Makwangwala. CVSU’s are established as a safe haven for victims of violence and abuse, but also act to ensure the prevention and the rehabilitation of victims, especially focusing on women and children. Gender-based violence is still a rampant phenomenon in Malawi. 41 per cent of women in Malawi experience physical or sexual violence and an estimated 2.4 million children are growing up in violent homes, witnessing domestic violence and experiencing its negative effects. 65 per cent of girls experience some form of child abuse during their lifetime, compared to 35 per cent of boys.
After providing shelter to a victim after an attack or case of abuse, the newly rehabilitated CVSU also ensures that the victim receives the necessary counselling and advice, and is referred to the police or other specialist service providers such as hospitals if necessary. Physical violence cases are most common (35%), followed by psychological and emotional violence (23%), family neglect and desertion (19%) and sexual violence. Between January and June 2013 CVSU’s across Malawi offered survivor care to 5400 cases.
Although the equipment in the CVSU might seem basic, the working of the unit can only be guaranteed when a dedicated team of specially trained community members commits fully to it. This team consists of ten people, led by the Traditional Authority. It entails 5 core members, among whom are a police officer and health surveillance assistant, and 4 members of the community.
Nankali Maksud, UNICEF Chief of Child Protection, says: “Statistics on violence against women and children in Malawi are disturbing. On average, close to 30000 cases are being reported annually to either Police Victim Support Units or CVSU’s like the one opened today. Violence can have serious health and social consequences not only for women, girls and boys, but also for their families and communities. These include risks for contracting HIV, unwanted pregnancy, psychological distress, and many more.”
Through the support of DFID 300 of these centres are being rehabilitated country wide and through case management the capacity of the teams working in the units will continue to be imroved. Moreover, UNICEF and DFID are working together with the Ministry of gender through the Justice for Vulnerable Groups Program to reduce violence against women and children in Malawi. CVSU’s are one strategy that the program uses to prevent violence at community level.
DFID will spend an average of £93 million per year in Malawi until 2015 to help implement the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS). From April 2012 to March 2013 DFID spent over £115m in Malawi. For more details see: http:www.dfid.gov.uk/where-we-work/africa-eastern--southern/malawi