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Innovative approach to combating violence against women and girls

Now in its second year, SASA! Faith is a guide to preventing violence against women and girls, and the spread of HIV, co-created by Trócaire and Raising Voices, a non-profit organisation based in Uganda.

The methodology has been designed specifically for use in Christian and Muslim communities and invites leaders, community members and believers to come together to prevent gender-based violence and HIV.

‘Community Mobilisation’ approach

SASA! Faith is designed to significantly and meaningfully change the way people relate to each other. 

It explores why people may accept or become silent about violence against women and how they can work together to make nonviolence the new normal in their faith communities.

Random or sporadic awareness-raising activities do not change community norms. Changing community norms requires engaging people in a strategic way, over time—a process known as ‘community mobilisation’. This approach is at the core of the SASA! methodology.

Case Study: Malawi

Malawi ranks 170 (of 188 countries) on the Gender Inequality Index of the 2016 UN Development Programme Human Development Report

34% of women in Malawi have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime (National Statistical Office 2017)  

8.8% of women age 15-49 and men age 15-49 in Malawi are HIV positive; HIV prevalence is higher among women than men (10.8% versus 6.4%) (National Statistical Office 2017

Malawi also has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, with half its girls married before the age of 18 (UNICEF 2016

Trócaire is working in partnership with the Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association (MIAA) in the district of Salima to increase knowledge, and challenge and change attitudes, behaviours and traditional cultural practices that negatively impact women and girls. 

MIAA trains traditional and religious leaders on gender equality, HIV and the impact of harmful traditional cultural practices on women and children.

The root cause of gender-based violence (GBV) is gender inequality, and the system that creates, sustains and perpetuates this inequality is the system of patriarchy. 

In order to influence the fundamental societal norms, attitudes, beliefs and practices that result from patriarchy, people with credibility and influence are required to challenge the harmful norms and champion change.

It is for this reason that SASA! Faith specifically advocates engaging with senior members of communities, specifically traditional and religious leaders. 

Chief Kwambiri (pictured below) is one of the many leaders trained by MIAA, working to end violence against women and girls in his community in Salima.

chief kwambiri

“There are quite a number of harmful cultural practices that we realised were harmful to women and girls… we realised that this was not right, not respecting girls’ rights and also issues of dignity of the girls so we said no to these harmful cultural practices that were being done that were facilitating the spread of HIV,” said Chief Kwambiri.

Harmful cultural practices include child marriage, girls leaving school at a young age, and the normalisation of domestic violence.  

Trócaire supports MIAA to train the leaders to create and register by-laws to protect women and children.

Religious leader Mufti Shamuna Sosola (pictured below) highlights the value of SASA! Faith in bringing together leaders of different faiths to cooperate towards common goals of improving the lives of women and girls in their communities.

Mufti Shamuna Sosola

“The programme has helped us as religious leaders, from Christian and Muslim, to work together. We tolerate each other more than we did previously. It was very difficult previously, before the programme for a Sheikh to work together with a Pastor in the same fight to end violence against women and on issues related to HIV – it was very, very difficult…but since we started on this programme, being supported by Trócaire, there is much more tolerance amongst ourselves and we are working together as a team to combat this issue,” said Mufti Shamuna Sosola.

MIAA identifies and trains male and female motivators to have conversations on gender equality, child rights, and HIV with their communities. Katherine Kalula (pictured at top of article), a female motivator, was trained by MIAA and is working hard to end violence against women and girls in her village.

Female motivators speak to the women in their community and male motivators to the men. Each trained male and female motivator provides advice through simple conversations on issues of violence against women and girls (VAWG).

Katherine is now recognised as a focal point on VAWG in her community and community members come to her for help.

Katherine feels that she too has transformed her views through MIAA’s training and wants to transform others to improve the lives of women and girls.

“After being selected, we were trained on gender based violence (GBV). Previously, we knew nothing about GBV, but during the training we were given knowledge about the types of GBV, we were given the opportunity to understand the link between GBV and HIV transmission. We were also helped with how we can engage the communities on these issues,” said Katherine Kalula.

Trócaire’s work has brought leaders together to form a united front to end violence against women and girls. It is already showing positive results in the communities where we work and the lives of women and girls in Malawi are being vastly improved by our collaborative efforts.

The programme in Malawi is supported by Irish Aid and the Human Dignity Foundation

Watch our short video about the programme in Malawi

Further information on SASA! Faith

SASA! Faith is an adaptation of the original SASA! Activist Kit for Preventing Violence against Women and HIV, developed and published by Raising Voices in 2008 and used, in close collaboration over many years, by the Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP) and many other organisations across Eastern and Southern Africa and beyond. 

View the full SASA! Faith guide and supporting materials.

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