Alliance member from Malawi CRECCOM works to effect change through community involvement. CRECCOM serves as a “creative catalyst that empowers individual and mobilizes communities so that they themselves ensure their development needs are fulfilled.” They cite Malawi’s cultural norms and customs as reasons for the occurrence of gender-based violence (GBV) in general and in schools:
Gender-based violence was a norm done out of ignorance. GBV was also fueled by cultural practices. Women and girls were regarded as tools to uplift men’s lives. Women spent most of their time in the garden but men were the ones to enjoy the fruit.
(That last line is important: Human Rights Watch documented that in Malawi the majority of women work in the agricultural sector, but earn only 78% of what their male counterparts made.)
In Malawi custom dictates that puberty marks young girls’ readiness for marriage. For example, in northern Malawi, the practice known as ‘kupimbira’ settles debts by transferring daughters to creditors for marriage.
CREECOM works across southern Malawi. They found that predominately in one region, Lomwe:
Their culture was awash with cultural practices ranging from ‘kuthundira mimba ndi mwana’ that encouraged incest and general promiscuity among the men-folk to ‘kusasa fumbi’ that left many girls impregnated and/or infected with HIV/AIDS as well as forced marriages.
CREECOM found that the underlying norms and customs heightened rates of GBV and as a result hindered girls’ education.
The approach CREECOM undertook, across southern Malawi, was to bring a community together, to convene on a regular basis and discuss the most pressing issues, and how such issues affect the livelihoods of all community members, particularly women and girls. In order to do this CREECOM trained “change-agents” who guided research, discussions, action planning and monitoring of execution of agreed upon action plans. In 2016 alone CREECOM has:
- Held over 1,500 sensitization meetings and 3,000 door-to-door interpersonal communication interventions have been conducted during this year alone reaching over 4,500 women, 3,900 men, 5,700 girls, and 5,600 boys.
- Led the way for several by-laws to be enacted, which have brought student drop-outs back to school. Over 850 teen moms and over 1,900 boys and girls who dropped out have re-enrolled into school and are continuing their education.
- And due to CREECOM’s work educating the community about the Human Rights and Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, communities have swiftly started to change their attitude toward women. Moreover, communities took immediate action to improve their roads (to prevent rapes from occurring on the way to school), encouraging girls to go to school.
CREECOM is proud that “the community is on the path of change.” By mobilizing communities around their own specific needs and issues, the impact of CREECOM’s work has been quite remarkable and serves as an inspiration for #16Days and every day.
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