The month of November is associated with the prevention of abuse and violence. We start the month with the prevention of child abuse and the promotion of the rights of children. The 19 Days of Activism for Prevention of Violence Against Children starts today November 1, 2023 to November 19, 2023. This is a period when we continue to create awareness of the prevention of abuse and violence. This is an intensification component, and we need to get more focused in this area.
Several reports from the Malawi Police Service, the Department of Social Welfare, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) indicate a continued prevalence of violence and abuse. The continued existence of child marriages is alarming, with an estimated rate of approximately 37%. Whether this is true or not is a story for another day but what is indisputable is the fact that the figure remains high. In addition to this, cases of defilement, child labour, online child sexual exploitation, and corporal punishment continue to be our greatest worries. This does necessarily not imply that children should not be disciplined. Creating the right values and moral development is the responsibility of all parents, guardians, and teachers. We need to acknowledge that rights go with responsibilities. We just need to be consistent at all levels. It should be emphasized that as we move forward with the prevention of abuse and violence, let’s focus on Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which talks about the best interest of the child, and giving children protection and ensuring that they should remain in school.
On the same abuse, we have noted with great concern the rise of violence against women and girls by their male counterparts and vice versa. We will be launching the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) on 25 November 2023. One wonders why all this is still happening in this day and age. Several recent studies have shown that there is a relationship between economic issues and GBV. Men who lost their sources of income have either become violent as part of the failure to accept the challenge or have been abused for failure to provide for their families. Either way, the loss in income has a huge impact on GBV. Our plea therefore, is not to only focus on creating awareness of GBV but also on various economic strategies to mitigate GBV at household and community levels. Empowering both men and women economically would be a great strategy for preventing and mitigating GBV. Men should be treated as allies to the management of violence against women and girls and this requires building rapport that fosters the processes.
It would be wrong if I do not talk about the right to development as enshrined in Section 30 of the constitution of the Republic of Malawi. The enjoyment of this right requires that the people of Malawi and duty bearers can respond and meet the demands of the citizens. This requires total commitment to ensuring that people are provided with the necessary mindset. However, recent developments show that right holders and duty bearers are no longer working to complement each other.
Heartrendingly, communities are not demanding their rights while duty bearers do not care. In any democratic dispensation, people must focus on the attainment of their rights when things are not going as expected. In any democratic dispensation, citizens must prioritize the attainment of their rights when the state of affairs is not in line with the expected standards.
We wish you a happy November 2023