Community radio helps to tackle violence and abuse against children
Buzi, Mozambique June 2010 – Since its opening a couple of years ago, the small community radio station in the district of Buzi, Sofala province, has played a big role in bringing community members together to discuss issues that affect them. Increasingly, the radio has become an open forum for everyone to speak up on sensitive topics that would have been considered off limit not so long ago, such as sexual abuse and domestic violence.
“Speaking about violence and abuse on the air has had a profound and positive impact on the life and well-being of children in our community,” says Mafeca, the coordinator of Buzi’s radio.
When asked about the incidence of violence and abuse against children in his town, Mafeca recounts a recent case of rape involving an 11-year old girl who was sexually assaulted by a male nurse in a nearby health centre.
The case was uncovered after a teacher, concerned about the strange behaviour of the girl at school, decided to speak with the child and her parents. The family went to the local support centre for victims of violence and abuse to seek legal, medical and psychosocial advice from specially trained staff.
There are over 200 support centres across the country. In a partnership between the Ministry of Interior and UNICEF, the centres provide a safe space where women and children victims of violence, abuse and exploitation can denounce their abusers and be referred to specialised services. The centres also play an important role in mobilising communities around violence and abuse so they can better prevent and respond to cases.
Many girl victims of violence do not report cases of sexual abuse to the authorities because of the stigma that surrounds the issue of sexual abuse among children and young people, parents, families, and the wider community. Even when police or other authorities want to pursue a case of sexual abuse, the parents often halt the proceedings because they consider it an issue to be solved within or between families.
This is why community radios can play a crucial role to raise awareness of the problem and educate people on how they can report cases of violence and abuse in their communities. Mafeca explains that he has seen a significant shift in attitude since the Buzi community radio began to talk about these issues.
“Before, people were reluctant to use the radio as a platform to denounce cases of violation of children’s rights, but these days they are more aware of the problem and they use the radio to discuss the issue,” says Mafeca.“Now, people often come back to enquire about the status of the cases, whether they has been resolved”.
There are over 60 non-profit community radio stations across the country coordinated by the National Forum of Community Radios with support from UNICEF. In Buzi, the community radio has become a powerful outlet for community members to voice their concerns and put pressure on local authorities.
Data collected by Mozambique’s Ministry of Interior reveal that more than 2,700 girls and boys experienced violence, abuse and exploitation in Mozambique in 2009. However, this figure only represents cases that were reported to the police; practitioners working in this area believe that the number of cases reported each year is significantly lower than the actual number of children who suffer from violence, abuse and exploitation.