Greetings Dear Reader,
We are already in month 11 and we are remaining with only one month to the end of the year. Fundamental questions have to be answered in relation to how we managed to protect women, girls and children. We are beginning the month with the famous 19 days of Activism to Prevent Abuse and violence against children and youth. While this is in action, we note the abuse and violence unleashed upon children connected to the street.
They are normally condemned as a nuisance. Very little attention has been paid to the plight of street connected children in Malawi. “Street-connected children should not be viewed or treated solely as victims or as delinquents, but should be seen first and foremost as rights-holders” – (CSC Advocacy Tool Kit, UK). The attention has been on what they have done wrong and not on how we can help them.
we are not spending time thinking about push and pull factors for the street connected children. As the Consortium for the Street Children convenes from November 1 to 4, we need to think about the recommendation from the Committee on the Rights of the children (Concluding remarks) and how are we relating as a country.
Malawi estimates over 4,000 children live or work on the street. The question is how are we managing the processes. Children continue to flood the streets with very limited interventions. We implore the Government to conclude the strategic framework for the street connected children. It has been four years of discussions and one wonders if we are really serious about the plight of the children connected to the street.
The commitment of the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare seem to be very limited and so is the commitment of the development partners. UNICEF, a child development system has noted that they will look at Government programmes. We have seen the business community wanting to support only things that would benefit them. The focus has been how can we manage the street connected children so that we protect our business. These are children as well and need protection, development and enjoy their rights.
Street connected children need holistic and not piecemeal approaches. We need to address their health, education, economic and personal skills development if we are going to make progress with these efforts. While addressing these, we also need to enhance the security of the street connected children and also the security of the citizens around the street connected children.
Child rights advocacy has received a lot of criticism that there is too much attention on the girl child and possibly boys are feeling out of place. Let us address this as boys. The protection of the girl child is protecting a precious item or property for boys. Leave it or take it. Girl child protection is in the interest of the boys as well. Girls are partners or wives of boys today
We need to ensure that your girls or future partners are not exploited by older men. We also want to ensure that you have partners that are educated, empowered and contribute to both family and society. So, join us to protect your girls. However, we may want to get around a way of how as boys we can help protect our girls. While this is the case, it should be highlighted that boys too have issues. Mental health is a real challenge for boys in schools and communities. The expectation for boys is too much such that it affects their growth and development. So, actors in child rights, let us refocus on the boys as well and develop proper interventions.
On a different note, we should reflect as development partners and actors. Coexistence of the women and men require some serious rethinking of the strategies we are using. We need the boys on board to change the mindset of looking at women as objects. Girls are precious members of the society and therefore we need to spend time working with boys so that they develop positive attitudes towards girls and women. We therefore need to reorganize boys and girls to start working together at a tender age so that they can understand each other.
Feminism ideologies need to be enhanced among the boys at a very tender age. Role modelling would be central at this point in time to get men role models to support the boys and girls at community levels. We need future men that respects the rights of women and this can only be possible if we start engaging boys currently in serious coexistence aspects. We need future men that do not abuse their daughters and enhances women participation. This is only possible with boy’s empowerment and the question that we all need to answer is how we are going to achieve this.
As the 19 Days of Activism for Prevention of Child and Youth Abuse finishes, we engage in the 16 days of Activism to curb gender-based violence. Preparations are underway for the launch of the same on 25 November 2022. This is the 21st Year of Celebrating the Launch of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence.
A very serious thought has to be in place now to take stock of the many years of activism. We are registering increasing gender-based violence cases at various levels and one of the issues that is worrying is more cases are within the workplaces and closed quarters of the families. What has this achieved? What is it that we need to change? Are we winning the war against the vice? If we are not winning, what are we missing? Has it become a norm that we do the activism as long as there is funding? Are we aiming at change or we are fighting for supremacy between the funding partners, implementing partners and development NGOs while there are heavy investments in thousands of dollars being spent in the launches?
What is more saddening is that after the launch we seem to have limited support to interventions that emerge after the awareness. We need to engage more. These are simple but hard questions to answer to ensure that we are making progress. At YONECO, we see lots of show off, outperforming and feeling superior in the entire management of the GBV prevention period. Serious reflection is needed on what this achieves. We need to move beyond rhetoric and make meaningful support to women and girls being abused.
Have a wonderful month as you reflect.