In a schoolyard in Malawi, a few children’s questions helped improve a home.
Joseph* showed up to school one day, not quite himself. A 10-year-old boy living with his family in Mtambalika village, he hadn’t been able to bathe because his parents were up all night fighting. When morning arrived, he hadn’t wanted to disturb them in order to get ready for school.
Some of Joseph’s classmates had been mentored in a Children’s Corner, a program provided by the PWS&D-supported Livingstonia Synod AIDS Programme (LISAP). When they asked him what was going on, he told them, “my father and mother shout at each other and fight almost every week. Sometimes my father calls us bad names and chases us out of the house at night, for no reason.”
Because the children had learned about their rights and where to turn if something was wrong at home, Joseph’s friends told him he should speak to a Child Protection Worker.
The Child Protection Worker met with Joseph’s family. She listened closely to his parents, who both explained that economic stress was creating a strain on their relationship and had resulted in frequent verbal and physical abuse.
Keen to provide a holistic solution, the staff member helped Joseph’s father understand the consequences of gender-based violence. She also connected Joseph’s family with tools to address their financial challenges. Together, Joseph’s parents joined a parenting group where they could have better social support, and a savings group that would allow them to sustainably alleviate some of their financial stress.
Addressing Gender-Based Violence
At the PWS&D-supported Livingstonia Synod AIDS Programme, child protection workers help children learn about their rights and where to turn if they experience abuse.
Working collaboratively has helped Joseph’s parents begin building a more peaceful home, but there is still work to do. “Now,” Joseph’s mother reflects, “we discuss how to spend the money that we make together. The beating has stopped. In some instances he still shouts at me, but it is not as regular as before.”
One of the challenges of combatting gender-based violence is that, in many cultures, it’s considered normal to use aggressive language or abusive behaviour against women and children. Sadly, in the project area, 60% of women have experienced gender-based violence at some point in their life.
Everyone deserves to have a safe, loving home environment. LISAP provides holistic support for women and children through advocating against early marriage, training women and children on their rights, and providing support workers for people experiencing abuse.
With the knowledge they gained through the project, Joseph’s friends helped him realize he was not stuck in an unsafe circumstance. For Joseph’s family and others, the project is helping reduce gender-based violence.
*The name of the child and image of children in this article have been changed to protect privacy.