A ghastly silence enveloped the Sapitwa Room at Crossroads in Lilongwe recently when young girls testified on gender-based violence (GBV).
Tears of shame, guilty, pain and unbelief eminating from inaction to stop the perpetuation of violence against girls engulfed nearly all the Chinansi Foundation sponsored interface participants.
Priscilla Phiri (not real name), 16, from Mtandile in Lilongwe told the story of her friend who ended up contracting HIV because of the greed of her guardians.
“Jane parents died and her aunt took her to Lilongwe from the village promising to look after her,” said Priscilla.
She said Jane was only 13 and claimed the aunt subjected her to prostitution to make money for her.
“My friend was enrolled in school, but rarely attended classes because she was always tired after satisfying the lust of older men who paid her aunt to have sex with her,” narrated Priscilla.
Concerned with Jane’s plight, Priscilla referred the case to women of Chinansi Foundation trained within AidsFree Girls Education (Age) Project within a consortium of Plan International and Family Planning Association of Malawi (Fpam) who paid the aunt a visit.
“The aunt told them it was none of their business and that if they cared for Jane, they should be prepared to provide for her,” Priscilla said.
Chinansi Foundation executive director Simplex Chithyola said they oriented 168 Lilongwe urban teachers on their work ethics to enable girls to appreciate their bodies to keep themselves safe through enhanced life skills training.
“We are implementing the Age project with K1.8 billion funding from Global Fund channeled through Action Aid, targeting 12 education zones, 84 schools in Lilongwe,” Chithyola said.
He said promoting community and teachers interventions could save girls from HIV and create an Aids free society.
Plan Malawi young women and adolescent girls age project coordinator George Milimbo said community plays a vital role in raising girls and that is why they also target communities in the fight against HIV/Aids.
“Perception of community on viewing young girls as a source of wealth should change through harsh by-laws that would make it mandatory to send girls to school, not forcing them into early marriages or prostitution that could expose them to HIV/Aids,” Milimbo said.
Lilongwe Urban district education manager (Dem) Martha Sinetre, who was guest of honour, said government was doing all it can to stop gender-based-violence (GBV) against the girls to stop the spread of the virus.
“Through interventions of projects such as Age, more girls are reporting GBV,” Sinetre said.
She said through AidsToto clubs, comprehensive life skills training, reusable sanitary pads making skills and village savings and loans (VSLs), girls are being trained to be more assertive.