Oxfam has called for concerted efforts in ending violence particularly perpetrated against girls in the country.
Oxfam Malawi country director John Makina was speaking in the area of Traditional Authority Nazombe in Phalombe during a community campaign to combat sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Schools.
Makina hinted that the existence of sexual and other forms of violence against girls in primary and secondary schools limit their retention, performance and competition.
He said: “Within the schools the violence is likely perpetrated by teachers, peers and workers while in communities violence is perpetrated by family relations and community members. This result in increased cases of school dropouts, early marriages and early pregnancies.”
Makina added that early tackling of SGBV both in and out of school and ensuring that girls are retained in schools will have a multiple effect on their chances to become independent and empowered members of their societies and less vulnerable to violence in their adult life.
Through a project called safe learning for girls being implemented in four districts of Phalombe, Dowa, Mzimba and Balaka, Oxfam is working with organizations such as Centre for victimized women and children (Covwoc), and Comic relief to raise awareness among girls, boys, traditional and faith leaders and community members on eradication of social norms that perpetuate gender-based violence (GBV), including violence faced by girls in schools.
The campaign also raise awareness on gender related legal instruments on gender equality and girls’ empowerment including girls’ right to education.
Guest of honour at the event, educationist sister Margaret Kambilonje, former member of the Teaching Service Commission spoke against harmful cultural practices and attitudes in some families which do not prioritise girls’ education.
“Negative harmful traditional practices like forced and early marriage, sexual rituals practiced during initiation ceremonies (that encourages early sexual debut for adolescents) promote dropping out of school especially among adolescent girls and often predispose girls to a level of psychosocial and physical violence.
“In such marriages girls have often suffered maternal health complications due to teenage pregnancies, which for some had been fatal,” she stated.
District education manager (DEM) for Phalombe Hendrix Likeke called on all stakeholders to be vigilant in the fight against violence against children in schools by among others report all cases of violence to police or his office.
“I would like to assure you that my office will not shield any teacher who makes sexual advances on a girl child.
“Teachers are supposed to be protecting these children and not take advantage of them,” he warned.
In her remarks, senior chief Nazombe blamed increased cases of GBV on ignorance.
“Gender-based violence and school dropout cases are rampant in this area. For example (last year) , eight out of ten learners that were selected from Chitautau primary school to Chiringa Community Day Secondary School dropped out of school. This is sad,” she said calling for continued sensitization among communities.
The £1.3 million (about K6.4 billion) project started in 2016 and ends in 2019.