“I love my job” – Meet the heroes tackling violence against women in Malawi

“I love my job” – Meet the heroes tackling violence against women in Malawi

Sara Banda endured her marriage for 20 years.

She was surrounded by people who felt she should, including her own family and her in-laws. In the end, she had no friends to speak of as her controlling husband ensured she was isolated.

It was her chance encounter with a Gender-Based Violence (GBV) awareness-raising event that made her realise that she didn’t have to suffer this way – that violence isn’t the norm to be accepted or endured.  

A large part of the work Oxfam Ireland and our partners in Malawi focus on is challenging the harmful cultural acceptance of GBV and changing attitudes in order to end violence against women and girls.

“Our culture supports a man beating a woman,” says Oxfam partner Wilfred Mwambi of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation or CHRR in Malawi. He sums up his work at the advocacy level by declaring, “We have to challenge that”.

Another Malawian partner working in this area is Khumbolane Nyirenda who works on the ground in the Balaka district with the Centre for Victimised Women and Girls, CAVWOC. She speaks of targeting the “norm setters” in communities.

At Balaka District Police Headquarters Sergeant Jacqueline Jumbe and her fellow officers are working to ensure that everyone knows GBV is an offence. With support from Irish Aid and Oxfam Ireland, the Balaka police department have a building dedicated to providing counselling for survivors of GBV, highlighting the ways that women and girls can report incidents.

Low levels of literacy and poor communications infrastructure in this largely rural country means “people often don’t know what their rights are,” says Khumbolane.

Oxfam Malawi’s Country Director, Lingalireni Mihowa, says 41.2% of women in Malawi have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence.

Malawi remains one of the top 10 countries in Africa for child marriage and cases of GBV often start in childhood.

Despite the challenges, our partners in Malawi working in the area of GBV are positive and hopeful. “I love my job,” says Sergeant Jumbe. “When women leave here having made a compliant you can see a weight has been lifted. They have been heard.”

“I feel through my work and by being an activist I’m changing the narrative for these women and girls,” says Khumbolane. “I get empowered by knowing there can be hope for them. They don’t have to accept their situation and they can switch up to something better.”

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