Mozambique responds to gender-based violence in the context of COVID-19
The Government of Mozambique, the European Union and the United Nations approved the 2020 Annual Work Plan of the EU-funded Spotlight Initiative to end violence and harmful practices against women and girls, amid new challenges brought by COVID-19.
MAPUTO, Mozambique – “Survivors need to be heard and feel loved”, says Teresa*, 23, a social activist with an open smile and sparkling eyes. Teresa knows well the importance of accessing quality gender-based violence (GBV) support services – she is among the one in four women in Mozambique who have experienced violence during their lives (IMASIDA 2015).
Teresa works at Ophenta, a women’s organization in Nampula province, northern Mozambique. Ophenta is one of the 57 grassroots organizations supported by the EU-funded Spotlight Initiative in Mozambique, a global partnership to end violence against women and girls.
The programme was launched in the country in March 2019 and is implemented in Gaza, Nampula and Manica provinces. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Women, Child and Social Action, the Initiative has already helped educate over 320,000 people about gender-based violence (GBV) and the new law prohibiting early unions and marriages. The programme has also improved access to services responding to GBV and promoting sexual and reproductive rights (SRR) for over 135,000 women and girls. To ensure the quality of these services, 446 government staff were trained on integrated GBV services.
The COVID-19 crisis brought new challenges to women and girls around the world and many countries recorded a surge in domestic violence, resulting from confinement and increased tensions in the household. In Mozambique, economic pressure, loss of livelihoods and disruption in access to health, social and protection services placed an added burden on women and girls.
“Innovation and creativity are essential in the response to this crisis”
To continue supporting women and girls during the pandemic, the Spotlight Initiative had to adapt. A portion of its 2020 resources was redirected to ensure that public institutions continue to provide life-saving services. This includes equipping government teams in the health, social action, police and justice sectors with personal protective equipment and hygiene materials. The programme is also providing cellphones, vehicles and mobile clinics to public institutions, online training service providers and promoting existing hotlines to report cases of violence.
These adaptations were recently approved as part of the Spotlight Initiative’s 2020 Work Plan by its Steering Committee, which held its annual meeting on 24 July 2020.
“Innovation and creativity are essential in the response to this crisis”, said the EU Ambassador in Mozambique, Antonio-Sánchez Benedito Gaspar during the meeting. “We must use all available resources to reach and support women and girls experiencing violence – for that, a strengthened partnership and coordination is crucial”, he added.
In addition to the COVID-19 response, the Initiative will train a further 450 government staff, equip and support GBV service points, deploy mobile clinics and improve the legal and forensic medicine sector to ensure that 130,000 women and girls have access to quality, integrated GBV and SSR services. A new software to manage cases of GBV will be piloted, and social mobilization efforts will continue to educate over 200,000 women, girls, men and boys to end GBV and early unions, with the involvement of over 50 civil society organizations.
Leaving no one behind
Promoting women’s economic empowerment and gender equality is key to end GBV and accelerate the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. To that end, the Minister of Gender, Child and Social Action, Nyeleti Mondlane said that “we must strengthen women’s economic empowerment efforts, to contribute to an equal, fair and peaceful society.”
The UN Resident Coordinator, Myrta Kaulard, added that “the Spotlight Initiative offers an exceptional opportunity to fight gender-based violence in Mozambique, because it acts as a catalyst to boost all other government and UN-supported interventions to end violence and early unions, while promoting women and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights.” She further stressed the vital role played by civil society at the community level during the COVID-19 response.
In fact, social activists like Teresa continue to work with communities across the country while observing social distancing rules. Among other interventions, they run megaphone campaigns in local languages, encouraging women and girls to continue reporting on cases of violence during the pandemic.
They also inform communities about where to seek support and services.
More importantly, frontline workers like Teresa help to keep a close eye on the most vulnerable women and girls, ensuring that no one is left behind.
The Spotlight Initiative is a global partnership between the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) to end all forms of violence against women and girls. In Mozambique, the Initiative is led by the Government under the leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Action. It is implemented over a four-year period (2019-2022) with a USD 40M commitment by the EU, focusing on the priority areas of ending sexual and gender-based violence, eliminating early marriage and promoting women and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights.
*name has been changed