Trócaire 50th Anniversary ConferenceLearn More
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women which marks the beginning of the international 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign (from 25 November to 10 December).
Today also marks the 10-year anniversary of the Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence (ICGBV) of which Trócaire is a proud member. In celebration of both events, the ICGBV today held a seminar at the Royal Irish Academy.
Titled “Standing Up, Speaking Out: Transforming Men’s Attitudes and Behaviours to end Violence Against Women”, the seminar explored how engaging men and boys can be an effective tool in the fight to end violence against women and girls. It brought together global perspectives on transforming men’s attitudes and behaviours to end violence against women and girls from organisations working in Malawi, Lebanon and Ireland.
The keynote speech was delivered by President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, who has previously shown his solidarity for gender equality as a Global HeForShe Champion.
In his speech President Higgins highlighted the opportunities offered by the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG number 5 which aims to ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’.
He noted that the other SDGs cannot be achieved unless we eradicate violence against women and girls and that we need to engage men and boys to reconceptualise masculinity and sexuality.
Other speakers today included Minister Sean Sherlock, Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion and North South Co-operation; Anthony Nabil Keedi, Programme Manager – Masculinities Unit at ABAAD: Resource Center for Gender Equality, Lebanon; Orla O’Connor, Director National Women’s Council of Ireland; and Dominic McSorley, CEO with Concern.
Yesterday, Trócaire Malawi co-hosted a related event which was attended by the country’s Minister of Gender, Patricia Kaliati, Alice Harding, from UN Women, and Aine Hearns, Irish Ambassador to Malawi, who opened the event reading a speech from President Higgins.
To mark this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, Trócaire and fellow NGOs based in Malawi: Action Aid, Concern, Goal, and Self Help Africa, put together a special exhibition showcasing their work with men to transform attitudes toward gender-based violence. The exhibition is being shown in both Ireland and Malawi (four images and stories from the exhibition feature below).
Chimwavi has held his Chieftainship position for fifteen years and presides over 600 households in twelve villages of Salima, Central Malawi.
He first became aware of the issues facing women five years ago. Today Chimwavi declares “many women are experiencing violence through cultural and religious practises in the area, but in my role as a leader and as a Chief I have a responsibility to ensure that such practises end.”
It is clear that Chimwavi has been taking his responsibility seriously. Over the past five years Chimwavi’s community has been very proactive in tackling destructive traditions such as violence in the home, child marriage and traditional initiation ceremonies for boys. More recently there was a successful education drive to end the practice of evicting a woman and her family from their home when her husband has died.
In the past Chimwavi had the power to adjudicate over even the most serious of gender based violence cases but he has passed this power to the authorities. “We know our role,” he says “I no longer handle cases of rape or sexual violence; these need to go through formal legal agencies. This not a threat to my authority. I feel good that justice is being served.”
Boston Kaluwa (34) is married with three daughters. Perhaps this inspired his work as a volunteer educating his community about equality for women.
Women in Boston’s community are vulnerable to violence, are being married off as children for dowries and being taken out of school earlier than boys to provide household labour. Boston is working with the community to end these traditions and the behaviours that support them.
For example “until recently it was not done for a husband and wife to walk together side by side in public”. Boston says “this was viewed as a weakness on the part of the man; that he was under his woman’s control. Breaking through these stereotypes was a big breakthrough for me”. Breaking through stereotypes like this is a first step towards ending traditions that disempower women and girls.
Increasingly, violence and attacks on women are being reported through Boston to community authorities and the police and 19 cases have been referred in the last two months. Boston is proud of what has been achieved. At home, his wife Mercy is much happier. “Recently she hugged me and thanked me for being a role model in our community, the highest form of praise I could receive!”
T/A Maganga (46) has been a Traditional Authority for four years and presides over 46,000 people in 62 villages in Salima district (Central Malawi).
Maganga states that “in the past women were viewed as minor beings with no rights who existed to be subservient to men. Times are changing and we must change with them. We must share ideas, we must work together if there is to be equality”.
Maganga has worked with his junior chiefs and the communities to bring about this change and to promote gender equality. Community Parliaments have been established to formulate by-laws which modify or eliminate practises that are harmful to
the wellbeing of the community. The Child Marriage Law is also upheld and girls who are married illegally are returned to their families.
According to Maganga, “Inequality is often promoted in the name of culture, however where our culture does more harm than good we must change it. It’s not easy for people, we grew up like this, but times are changing and we must change too.”
Alfred Chisale, a husband and father of two daughters, leads a team of 29 people, including 17 women, producing Chitetezo Mbaula clay cookstoves. In doing this he is quietly transforming the lives of women and children on a daily basis.
Thousands of women around Malawi prefer the safer, cleaner and quicker cookstove. It is portable and saves firewood as wood is sourced less often. Chitetezo users are exposed to less smoke in the cooking place, reducing respiratory infections amongst women and children. Women are saving money through buying less charcoal, and they feel they contribute to protecting their local environment.
More than 40,000 families are benefiting from stoves produced by Alfred’s team. Mrs. Effie Sambani is one of the 17 women who have benefited from Alfred’s company, “I started producing Chitetezo Mbaula [cookstoves] in 2012. Since then my life has been much better. I am able to use the money I save to pay school fees and buy food items”. Effie was awarded Best Producer and received a cash prize at Malawi’s Cleaner Cooking Camp in 2015 having produced 1,101 stoves in 2014.
Supporting women’s economic empowerment can help reduce their vulnerability to GBV. Alfred is a HeforShe champion who is actively addressing gender inequality issues and helping to transform the lives of women in Malawi.
Visit the ICGBV website to see the full exhibition.
The ICGBV was established in 2005 as a response to reports of ongoing and systematic sexual violence against women and girls in the Darfur Region of Sudan, with Mary Robinson as its patron since its inception.